Can Anabolic Steroids Be Considered As Addictive?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic androgens, particularly testosterone. Broadly, they have androgenic and anabolic effects on the body. In addition, they are widely used for doping, but they are addicting in nature and have a greater risk of physical and psychological side effects. The severity of undesired effects and symptoms vary from person to person.

In essence, this article focus on the major concerns of anabolic steroids addiction.

Anabolic Steroids Addiction:

Addiction is induced by consistent use and high doses of anabolic steroid. In a scientific literature review published between 1988 and 1998, anabolic dependence was diagnosed as a mental disorder. Anabolic steroids are addicting because they show “withdrawal syndrome” induced by abuse. [1]

How Anabolic Steroids Affect The Brain To Cause Addition?

Anabolic steroid acts on androgen receptors in particular brain areas. They enter through the cell membrane and bind to inactivated receptors in the cytosol and stimulates them. This induces a conformational change, translocation of the androgen-receptor complex in the nucleus occurs [2].

Animal studies show that anabolic steroid elevates dopamine levels in reward regions of the brain and serotonin level in brain areas and affect mood [3]. Chronic use is associated with the dysfunction of reward pathways in animals [4]. Hence, due to increased dopamine levels, users get addicted to steroids. Here are some of the other symptoms of steroids addiction.

Dependence On Anabolic Steroids:

When steroids are taken, androgenic receptors present in the brain are stimulated. In brief, users experience increased self-confidence, excitement, less fatigue, more energy, less need for sleep, and increased sex drive, resulting in psychological dependence. [5]

Association Of Anabolic Steroids Abuse With Other Drugs:

Pieces of evidence have suggested that anabolic steroids dependence might share the mechanism of opioid addiction. Anabolic steroids and opioids link was observed in 1989. Later, it was confirmed that anabolic steroid users happen to be at the risk of depending on opioids. [6]

Moreover, in 2009, a study further added evidence for the anabolic steroid and opioid relationship. As a result, opioid abuse started either before or after anabolic steroid use. [6]

Withdrawal Symptoms Of Anabolic Steroids:

During the intake of anabolic steroids, the natural production of testosterone from the pituitary gland decreases because the body receives enough hormone from external sources. When users pause or discontinue the anabolic steroid intake. As a consequence, testosterone levels in their body get reduced naturally.

It happens in the long term; natural production by the pituitary gland gets interrupted. In this phase, user experience withdrawal symptoms such as loss of energy, sleep disturbances, reduced concentration, and lack of confidence.

Moreover, psychological distress like anxiety-like behavior, mania, hypomania, depression and suicidal thoughts have also been reported. People who discontinue anabolic steroid should be monitored for suicidal behavior. [7]

Treating anabolic steroids addiction:

People can’t immediately stop using steroids. So, it is necessary to deal with withdrawal symptoms such as depression and body pains etc. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can be used to treat frequent depressive symptoms.

Typically, a combination of medications and behavioral therapy is gradually given to bring a person back to a healthy life. [8]


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