For the last several years steroid use and addiction among athletes has been a prominent feature of many news stories. Media focus on this subject has been intense since the Mark McGwire debacle of 2007 when a house select committee was forced to investigate allegations of doping in the Major League Baseball organization, effectively throwing the lucrative sport into temporary disarray. But while many people were outraged that their idolized athletes had allegedly (and admittedly in some cases) cheated and obtained an unfair advantage, few people realize the suffering and damage sustained by associates and families of people who use these drugs – or the dangers faced directly by users.
Anabolic Androgenic Steroids or AAS are a group of drugs that are synthesized in a laboratory from the male hormone known as testosterone. These drugs have limited medical applications such as treatment of certain cancers and conditions that involve acute swelling, but they have been popularized as performance enhancing substances by the illicit drug community. Athletes use steroids in order to gain muscle mass and strength, speed and overall endurance. However, these temporary benefits come at a cost. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse;
“. . . the acute effects of AAS in the brain are substantially different from those of other drugs of abuse. The most important difference is that AAS are not euphorigenic, meaning they do not trigger rapid increases in the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for the “high” that often drives substance abuse behaviors. However, long-term use of AAS can eventually have an impact on some of the same brain pathways and chemicals—such as dopamine, serotonin, and opioid systems—that are affected by other drugs of abuse.” (1)
Over time the physical effects of regular steroid use actually begin to reverse, as an overabundance of testosterone produces the female hormone estrogen, causing men to develop feminine characteristics. Similarly, women who abuse steroids will develop masculine characteristics. Additionally, users of steroids risk serious reproductive, cardiovascular and respiratory harm that could result in fatal complications.
Steroid users are also subject to severe psychological and emotional damage that most people in the public naturally associate with steroid junkies. The Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse describes these risks in detail:
“Steroid abuse can have profound effects on the mind, causing temporary personality changes in some. Users may exhibit uncontrolled aggression and violent behavior called “roid rage,” in addition to severe mood swings, manic episodes, and depression. Moreover, users may suffer paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment from feelings of invincibility.” (2)
The Association Against Steroid Use indicates that tolerance to doping is non-existent in the professional sporting community; “The International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and many professional sports leagues (e.g. Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League, and National Hockey League) have banned the use of steroids by athletes, both because of their potentially dangerous side effects and because they give the user an unfair competitive advantage.” (3) Despite the fact that most local, national and international sports organizations have strict rules against doping, there remain a large number of both amateur and professional athletes that use steroids anyway. Some take steroids that have not yet been outlawed or ones that do not appear in drug tests, while others take advantage of the difficulty in enforcing any type of drug laws and regulations.
Addiction to steroids is a very real possibility despite differences in the way the brain copes with these substances when compared to traditional street drugs like cocaine and heroin. Physical changes happen rapidly and have been compared to the intensity of meth use. Therefore, if you think that someone you care about is struggling with a steroid addiction, now is the time to act. Call the number at the top of this screen to speak to an expert about getting help today.
(1) National Institute on Drug Abuse NIDA InfoFacts: Steroids (Anabolic-Androgenic)
(2) Texas Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Steroids: Just the Facts
(3) Association Against Steroid Abuse Dangers of Steroid Abuse