Steroid Addiction – Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

steroids addiction

Struggling with Steroid Addiction?

We’re Here to Help You Take the First Step Towards Recovery


Steroid abuse and addiction in the UK is a growing concern, especially among athletes. In a report by Sky News, one million Britons were seen to use steroids regularly including children as young as 13 years and police officers. The consequences of steroid addiction are far-reaching and may be detrimental to your health and overall well-being.

If you are struggling with an addiction to steroids, you can book a free consultation with our team of experts to learn more about substance addiction and the counselling options available to overcome it.

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What Are Steroids?

Steroids are prescription medications with anti-inflammatory and muscle-building effects and are used therapeutically to treat various medical conditions. Steroids are classified into two broad types, namely: Corticosteroids and Anabolic steroids.

The Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are steroids with anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive effects. They help combat inflammation and also depress your immune system. They are a man-made or synthetic version of a hormone found in the body that is secreted by the adrenal gland. The effects of corticosteroids are of immense value in the medical field as they help treat several conditions such as asthma, allergic reactions like hives, inflammation around the joints (arthritis), inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), atopic eczema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Corticosteroids are not commonly abused; prolonged use can adversely affect your health. Corticosteroids include prednisone (Deltacortril, Deltastab, Dilacort, Pevanti), dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, fluticasone and beclometasone.

The Anabolic Steroids

Anabolic steroids are a group of steroids with muscle-building and performance-enhancing effects. This means that they increase the rate at which muscles are built, which can increase your ability and efficiency in performing strenuous tasks such as sports. Anabolic steroids are drugs made to mimic or simulate the effect of testosterone on the body. Testosterone is a male hormone responsible for developing sexual characteristics such as increased muscle mass, more prominent pubic and facial hair, coarse voice, increased libido and development of male genitalia. When anabolic steroids are taken, they begin to simulate the effects of testosterone by increasing your muscle mass and making you appear more masculine. This drug has limited use therapeutically and is more commonly abused among people who want to improve their self-image and performance. Examples of anabolic steroids include bolasterone, danazol, hydroxytestosterone, mibolerone and oxymetholone.

Why Do People Abuse Steroids?

Steroids, particularly anabolic steroids, are abused for various reasons:

  • Body Dysmorphic Disorder: This is a mental condition common in teens and young adults where they constantly worry about their physical appearance and flaws which, most times, are not even noticeable to others. According to a report by the Guardian in 2019, a million Britons take steroids to enhance their looks rather than boost sports performance. Owing to the muscle-building effect of anabolic steroids, several people tend to take them to build their muscles and look more toned and attractive.
  • To enhance physical performance: This is common with athletes and people involved in competitive sports and activities. The act of taking substances like anabolic steroids to boost your performance and gain an edge over your competitors is called doping.
  • Peer pressure: This is common with teens, in particular, teenage boys who may be pressured by friends to take anabolic steroids in a bid to build their muscles and appear more mature and attractive.
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Anabolic steroids are currently classified as class C drugs which can only be given or prescribed by your doctor.

Anabolic steroids may be used legally for personal ad therapeutic use. In professional sports, however, the use of anabolic steroids for performance enhancement is banned, and players are tested from time to time to ensure they do not take these drugs. A player that is discovered to be taking anabolic steroids may be banned from competing.

Additionally, the possession, import and export of anabolic steroids with the intent to supply or sell them is illegal and offenders are liable to face 14 years imprisonment or pay an unlimited fine.

Other Variations

Not precisely variations of corticosteroids, but there are four main classes of steroids — androgens and oestrogens which are responsible for the sexual differentiation of the brain among other things, progestogens are involved in neuroprotection while glucocorticoids are linked with stress and memory performance.

Steroids in the Media

As earlier established, several media outlets and news stations such as the Guardian and Sky News have reported a hike in the use of steroids among Britons. In January, the Daily Mail noted that over 500,000 people are addicted to muscle-enhancing steroids. The Metro also released an interview with 28-year-old Jack Baldwin on his experience with anabolic steroids.

Effects on the Brain

Steroids have been demonstrated in research to lead to alterations in the brain structure. The study highlighted decreases in the grey and white matter of people who took corticosteroids for long periods. The reason for this is not entirely clear, but we do know that the long-term effect of these changes can be detrimental to your mental health and cognitive abilities.

Effects on the Body

Steroid has effects on your body and they differ between males and females. Effects of steroids on males include:

  • Gynaecomastia –  This is the presence of enlarged breast tissue in males. Steroids can stimulate the breast tissue to grow and make it appear like that of a female.

  • Alopecia – This is hair loss in men. Steroids can lead to continuous hair loss and balding in males.

  • Infertility –  Steroids can reduce the rate at which natural testosterone and sperm are produced, which may make it difficult to have children.

  • Erectile dysfunction

  • Cancer of the testes.

  • Increased risk of prostate cancer

The effects of steroids on females include:

  • Reduced breast size –  While steroids increase breast size in males, it reduces the breast size in females, making the breast appear flatter and resemble that of males.
  • Deepened voice –  Steroids may cause a deepening in the voice of females to sound like that of a male.
  • Excessive hair growth – This is also called hirsutism where hair grows rapidly on parts of the body such as the face, chest, arms, legs, back and thighs.
  • Alopecia – Here, they may undergo male-pattern alopecia where their scalp hair may begin to thin, and balding ensues.
  • Increase in the size of the clitoris (clitoromegaly) as a part of female virilization.
  • Increased sexual drive or libido.
  • Irregular or absent menstrual periods.

The general effects of steroids on body systems include:

  • Hypertension.
  • Coronary artery disease.
  • Increased risk of infections due to depressed immunity.
  • Blood-borne infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and c from shared needles.
  • Chronic kidney disease.
  • Renal failure.
  • Liver disease.
  • Stunted growth in adolescents and young children.
  • Cerebrovascular accidents or stroke.
  • Cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Heart failure.
  • Excessive weight gain.
  • Hyperlipidemia due to increased low-density lipoproteins (LDL).
  • Fluid retention.
  • Skin acne.

How Steroids Affect Our Mental Health

Steroids have detrimental effects on your mental health and they include:

  • Aggression and irritability.
  • Depression.
  • Apathy.
  • Anxiety.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Suicidal ideations.
  • Delusions and hallucinations.
  • Insomnia
  • Anorexia.

Are You Addicted to Steroids?

It is important to know if you are addicted to steroids so you can seek support. Steroid addiction can be very harmful to you in the long run and it is essential that you make the first step towards recovery as soon as possible.

Signs of Steroids Addiction

Are you wondering if you or your loved one is addicted to steroids? Here are the signs and symptoms of steroid addiction:

  • Inability to stop taking steroids despite the effects it has on your health.

  • Feeling the strong urge to take steroids or compulsively taking steroids.

  • Having a strained relationship with your family or friend due to steroid use.

  • Feeling uneasy and weak until you have taken steroids.

  • Going to great lengths to get more steroids.

Symptoms of Steroids Withdrawal

Withdrawal is a clinical condition that occurs when a person who was previously using an addictive substance, steroids in this case, suddenly stops or reduces their intake of the substance. This happens because the brain has developed a dependence on the substance and thus actively requires that substance in a particular dosage.

Facts and Statistics

Data from the UK Anti-Doping Agency shows that over one million people are using steroids in the UK, and 56% of these users in a 2016 Image and Performance-Enhancing Drugs (IPED) survey were seen to be taking these steroids for cosmetic reasons to improve their body image.

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Finding Treatment

Treatment of steroid addiction is very vital as continued use of steroids can lead to several health challenges. While steroid addiction is difficult to overcome on your own,  CATCH Recovery’s personalised outpatient programme can help you. CATCH Recovery offers a wide range of evidence-based therapy options for steroid addictions which will help you overcome them and leave a health and addiction-free life.

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CATCH Recovery’s Promise

At CATCH Recovery, we make sure to help and guide you through this path to recovery with love and care. We are here to support you during and after your recovery with the aim of helping you become and stay sober in the long-term. Reach out to out team of counsellors to start your journey to recovery and sobriety today.

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