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Steroid Addiction Treatment  

Steroid Addiction Treatment

Anabolic steroid addiction is a health issue that affects many people, with 32% of people who misuse steroids becoming dependent. Addiction can cause significant disruptions to one’s way of life, from physical and mental health problems to relationship and financial difficulties.


While substance use disorder is a complicated and often debilitating disease, several treatment options can provide relief if you’re struggling. Keep reading to learn the causes, signs and treatment methods for steroid addiction. 

What Are Steroids?

Steroids, known as “anabolic-androgenic steroids,” are a human-made variation of testosterone. The term “anabolic” refers to muscle-building, and ”androgenic” refers to increased masculine characteristics resulting from using these substances.

Health care providers generally prescribe steroids to treat hormonal issues, such as delayed puberty. Steroids can also address muscle loss caused by different diseases, such as AIDS and cancer. Health care providers might prescribe certain steroids to address other medical conditions like: 

  • Hormonal imbalances in men
  • Breast cancer
  • Muscle loss due to disease
  • Endometriosis
  • Certain types of anemia
  • Weight loss in individuals with HIV

Some athletes or bodybuilders might misuse steroids in an attempt to boost their performance or improve their physical appearance and strength.

Anabolic steroids activate parts of the DNA in muscle cells, increasing protein production and promoting muscle tissue growth. As a result, those who take steroids might experience increased muscle growth and body mass in a short amount of time. These parts of DNA also increase bone minerals and alter the function of the reproductive, immune and central nervous systems. 

Anabolic steroids can take different forms, including topical gels, pills, creams and injectable liquids. The most common types of steroids and their brand names include:

Anabolic steroids shouldn’t be confused with corticosteroids, like prednisone, used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Anabolic steroids work differently from other commonly misused drugs. They don’t have the same short-term effects on the brain as other substances like opioids or benzodiazepines. The main differences are that they don’t activate the reward system that causes euphoria. Steroids also don’t always trigger the release of dopamine, which generally reinforces other types of drug-taking behavior. Still, this medication can be highly addictive for many people.

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Signs and Symptoms of Steroid Addiction

Signs and Symptoms of Steroid Addiction

Steroids are classified as Schedule III substances, meaning they have meaningful medical uses but may cause physical or mental dependence. It’s essential that individuals using steroids understand the risks of steroid misuse. Taking higher doses can lead to dependence and eventual addiction, which can cause lifelong difficulties. 

While identifying addiction early on can sometimes be challenging, checking for signs and symptoms as soon as possible and alerting health professionals can prevent these harmful outcomes. If you believe you or a loved one might have a steroid addiction, watch for specific behavioral, physical and psychological signs:

1. Misusing the Medication 

Substance use disorder often develops when taking more drugs than prescribed or combining substances with alcohol or other drugs. Increased usage can result in drug tolerance, and combining steroids and alcohol can cause liver damage and other health problems. Misusing steroids can become a routine that eventually turns into an addiction.

These common patterns of steroid misuse are referred to as cycling, stacking, pyramiding and plateauing:

  • Cycling: Taking frequent doses for an extended period, abstaining for a while and then restarting
  • Stacking: Combining two or more types of steroids and mixing oral, injectable or other forms
  • Pyramiding: Slowly increasing the dose, reaching a peak amount and then tapering off to zero
  • Plateauing: Switching out, overlapping or replacing one steroid for another in an attempt to avoid developing a tolerance

Dependence begins when a person develops drug tolerance, characterized by cravings and urges to take more substances. If you suspect a loved one is struggling with steroid use, note how often they take it. Many people who develop drug tolerance will seek constant refills or seek their medication through illegal means. They might leave the house to find more drugs or ask for refills earlier and earlier to sustain their addiction.

2. Physical Changes

Physical changes from steroid misuse might be the easiest to spot since they’re often difficult to conceal. The physical changes can manifest after just a short period of use, including: 

  • Increased facial hair
  • Severe acne
  • Dramatic changes in appetite or energy levels
  • Rapid weight gain or muscle growth
  • Excessive breast development in men

Many people struggling with addiction continue taking steroids despite the changes to their physical appearance or energy levels.

Behavioral Changes From Steroid Addiction

3. Behavioral Changes

Substance use disorder and drug dependence can cause several behavioral changes. Individuals might lie to access more medication or become secretive about their whereabouts while trying to conceal their addiction.

Substance use disorder can cause financial strife. Those struggling with addiction might steal from loved ones or sell prized possessions to obtain more drugs. They may partake in risky and illegal behaviors, such as purchasing drugs through illicit means or taking substances while driving. 

Individuals with substance use disorder might also increase their dosage to experience more significant results, not realizing the harmful effect it can have on their health. And if they do recognize the devastating effects, they may be unable to quit substances due to the uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping use.

Those with an addiction might also avoid previously enjoyed activities and those closest to them in favor of using drugs. 

4. Psychological Effects

People who take steroids for a prolonged time can experience disruptions in their body’s natural hormonal balances. When they stop taking the drugs, they may become depressed or suicidal due to these hormonal imbalances. If your loved one seems sad or withdraws from social interaction, this may signify withdrawal and depression. 

Steroid misuse can cause other adverse psychological effects, such as: 

  • Paranoia 
  • Mania
  • Extreme irritability or aggression
  • Delusions 
  • Impaired judgment

Those who chronically misuse steroids might also show extreme irritability and aggression, commonly referred to as “roid rage.” If your friend or loved one gets upset over minor things or takes out aggression on you or someone else, they may be experiencing one of the most common symptoms of steroid addiction. They might have persistent issues with family members and experience mood swings that affect their relationships. 

Anabolic steroid misuse is also associated with major mood disorders like hypomania, mania and depression. Take note of any extreme mood changes like paranoia, hallucinations or illogical thinking that affect their daily functioning. Those struggling with addiction may ignore responsibilities at work, school or home. 

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What Causes Steroid Addiction?

What Causes Steroid Addiction?

While there isn’t a single cause of steroid addiction, experts believe several factors can put a person at risk. People might develop an addiction to steroids when they notice improved physical appearance and strength in a short time. This can result in an obsessive need to acquire more steroids, thus resulting in addiction. Most people who misuse steroids are weightlifters in their 20s or 30s. 

Another reason to continue steroid use might come down to the withdrawal symptoms that occur when the person cuts back or stops using the drug abruptly. They may choose to continue their addiction rather than deal with the often uncomfortable or painful side effects of quitting. And by combining the drug with substances or using steroids in ways not prescribed by a doctor, people can be at a higher risk of developing substance use disorder. 

Experts have determined a link between co-occurring mental health conditions, genetics and external stressors that contribute to a physical and psychological dependence

Personal History 

Studies have shown a person’s history and personality may play a role in succumbing to substance misuse. Children of parents who use substances are at a higher risk of developing an addiction. A history of legal problems or risky behaviors can also tie into the potential for addiction issues. Those risky behaviors can include engaging in unprotected sex, stealing, fighting or driving under the influence.

Other factors might contribute to developing steroid addiction, such as how long the drugs remain in a person’s body, how individuals respond to stress and their risks of developing mental health conditions. However, the case is often not black and white. Those genetically predisposed to substance misuse typically may face external stressors that influence their drug-seeking behaviors. 

Environmental Factors 

Several external stressors might influence substance misuse and addiction. Since drug use can appear in adolescence, experts believe that the stressful changes associated with this life stage might place younger adults at risk. 

Men who misuse steroids may experience a form of male dysmorphic disorder called muscle dysmorphia or self-perceived inadequacy of their muscles and physical appearance. As a result, many may resort to steroids to help them get bigger when they feel like they’re at a point where weight training cannot help. Many people who use anabolic steroids report using them helped them achieve their ideal body. 

Young adults might turn to steroids to help them feel better about themselves, especially in the vulnerable stages of early adolescence. Tolerance might occur when people find themselves relying on steroids to build their self-esteem and confidence. The reliance can make it difficult to stop using these substances in the long run. Individuals may fear losing muscle mass, for instance, and internally pressure themselves to keep taking the drug. Those who take steroids while playing sports may continue using them for the recognition their bolstered strength may bring. 

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders 

A 2020 report showed that half of the people with mental health conditions like depression or anxiety will also experience addiction at some point in their life and vice versa. 

Examples of co-occurring disorders treated alongside substance use disorder include:

  • Depression
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Antisocial personality disorder 

Individuals who use steroids might use other drugs to alleviate the harmful effects of steroids. For example, some might use opioids in an attempt to counteract irritability, depression, insomnia and withdrawal from anabolic steroids. 

Short- and Long-Term Effects of Steroid Addiction

There are several reasons people might find themselves addicted to steroids. Bodybuilders and young athletes are at risk of using these substances long-term.

The problem with steroid misuse is, after prolonged use, they can cause severe health effects. A greater risk of heart problems and stroke are linked to anabolic steroids. Oral steroids are often linked to liver damage and other health complications.

It’s essential to understand the short and long-term health effects of steroid addiction: 

Initial Effects

Limited evidence suggests the effectiveness of anabolic steroids in improving athletic performance. Most research suggests people who use steroids will increase their muscle strength. Some people might use anabolic steroids and believe them to be a part of a healthy lifestyle. However, several risks accompany those who use steroids without a prescription or medical supervision. 

Anabolic steroids affect everyone differently, though common side effects include: 

  • Severe acne
  • Reduced appetite or energy
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Water retention leading to facial bloating
  • Swelling in the feet and hands
  • Increased sex drive
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression and violence
  • Sleeping difficulties 

Hormone Imbalances

Hormone Imbalances Caused By Steroid Misuse

Steroid misuse can cause hormonal balances that affect men and women differently. Some of these changes may be irreversible and permanent, while others may be reversible. 

For men, steroid misuse can lead to: 

  • Excessive breast development 
  • Baldness
  • Low sperm count 
  • Nosebleeds
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Shrinking of the testicles

In women, steroid misuse can cause:

  • Changes in a person’s menstrual cycle
  • Male-pattern baldness
  • Growth of body and facial hair
  • Voice deepening
  • Fluid retention leading to swelling
  • Increased body and facial hair growth
  • Oily skin
  • Tissue damage at the injection site

Health Problems in Young Adults

Teens and young adults who misuse steroids risk several side effects and complications. The risk of these side effects is higher when injected by young men in their teens or early 20s before they’ve stopped growing. 

The body is programmed to stop growing after puberty, and when hormone levels reach a certain point, the body might think it’s done. As a result, steroids may send a message to the bones to stop growing too soon, resulting in stunted growth and other hormonal problems. 

Young people who use steroids to gain weight or muscle mass may experience other side effects like:

  • Premature balding
  • Stretch marks on the chest and arms
  • Acne scarring
  • Prematurely aged skin
  • Injecting risks
  • Injuries from excessive gym workouts



While steroids don’t cause a “high” similar to other addictive drugs, anyone who uses them can develop an addiction. Individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms when attempting to stop using them, including: 

  • Anorexia
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Steroid cravings
  • Sleep problems
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Insomnia
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Anxiety

The fear of withdrawal is often one of the main reasons people continue to take steroids, falling into an addictive cycle that can be challenging to escape. Depression might be one of the most dangerous effects of withdrawal due to its long-lasting, intense nature. In some cases, individuals may experience suicidal thoughts or attempts during withdrawal. Depression can last up to a year after the use of the drug stops.

Psychological Symptoms

Research also demonstrates a link between those who use steroids and increased mental health issues. For instance, those who misuse steroids might also develop other substance use disorders or find that steroids exacerbate symptoms of underlying mental health conditions. 

People who misuse steroids are also more likely to report anxiety than non-users. Some have been known to develop manic or psychotic symptoms due to exposure to anabolic steroids as well as major depressive symptoms and sleep disorders, often in periods of abstinence after frequent use. 

The following is a list of psychological effects of long-term steroid misuse: 

  • Anger and irritability 
  • Paranoia
  • Apathy and depression
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations

Chronic steroid misuse can create changes in the brain that may impact the production and supply of chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. These impacts can then cause changes in mood and behavior. 

Health Complications

Steroids can weaken the immune system. That means that people addicted to steroids are at an increased risk of experiencing frequent illnesses and diseases. Prolonged use of anabolic steroids has also been linked to several health problems, including:

One of the most devastating risks of long-term steroid use is a heart attack, stroke or death, especially among those who combine steroids with stimulants like speed or ecstasy. Injecting steroids in unhygienic environments can also increase the risk of contracting viruses like HIV, tetanus and hepatitis C or B.

Individuals should seek immediate treatment for steroid addiction with a professional health care provider to prevent these outcomes. 

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How to Know When It's Time for Treatment

How to Know When It’s Time for Treatment

It can be challenging to recognize or admit you have a problem with substances. Addiction can develop even when taking steroids under a doctor’s direction. If you find yourself taking steroids more frequently or in ways differently than prescribed, you may have an addiction. Once your prescription expires and you stop taking steroids, you may experience mood swings and withdrawal symptoms that can indicate substance use disorder.

In addition to developing tolerance and going through withdrawal, other common signs of addiction include:

  • Spending the majority of your time searching for, using and recovering from steroids
  • Taking steroids longer than intended
  • Combining steroids with other substances, like cocaine or alcohol 
  • Diminished work or school performance 
  • Persistent issues with friends and family members 
  • Spending large amounts of money to obtain and use steroids 
  • Experiencing severe depression when attempting to quit 

If you or a loved one experience any of the above symptoms, it may be time to seek treatment for steroid addiction. Individuals who take steroids long-term can disrupt their body’s natural hormonal balances. As a result, it’s essential that steroid addiction is addressed both professionally and medically in a residential or outpatient treatment center. This way, medical professionals can help restore healthy hormonal balances and reduce depressive symptoms.

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Types of Steroid Addiction Treatment

Types of Steroid Addiction Treatment

While some may believe steroids improve their physical appearance, steroid misuse can create several internal problems, from depression and anxiety to serious physical health complications. These consequences can affect a person’s entire life and result in irreversible changes. Fortunately, steroid addiction treatment centers can help you get back to a healthy way of life and address any co-occurring disorders you might have.

To treat the underlying causes of steroid addiction, treatment centers might use a combination of medicines and therapies: 

  • Psychological therapies: Cognitive behavioral therapy is a treatment option for substance use disorder, and it can also help treat co-occurring mental health disorders like depression or muscle dysmorphia. Therapists will help you identify negative self-talk so you can change your thoughts, actions and behaviors associated with substance use. You can develop healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress and work on improving your self-esteem in therapy sessions. This way, you can battle the underlying causes of your steroid addiction.
  • Endocrine therapies: Since chronic steroid misuse can contribute to sexual problems like low sex drive, patients might attend endocrine therapy outside of the addiction treatment center to restore sexual functioning. Endocrine treatment works by helping people adjust their hormonal imbalances to prevent further health problems and depression. 
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) might help patients whose depression does not respond to endocrine therapies. These medications might reduce depressive symptoms resulting from withdrawal or addiction itself. Other individuals might struggle with self-esteem issues that contribute to their substance issues. As a result, a steroid addiction treatment center may prescribe medications to treat co-occurring mental health disorders
  • Hospital-based treatment: In a partial hospitalization program, individuals follow a structured treatment plan while receiving help for severe medical problems associated with steroid addiction. At a hospital or clinic, you might receive medical detox, take medications for co-occurring health problems or attend counseling services to overcome substance use disorder.
  • Residential care: When you enter an inpatient or residential treatment center, you’ll live in a medically supervised environment to help you focus solely on your recovery. You can receive 24/7 care to avoid substances while living with others who have substance use disorders. Most addiction treatment centers will provide nutritious meals, one-on-one therapy sessions, group counseling and recreational activities to support your ongoing needs and recovery goals.
  • Support groups: Social support is a crucial element of addiction recovery. Individuals hoping to overcome addiction might attend group therapy or 12-step support groups to listen to others’ recovery stories and discuss their own. A group counselor will facilitate the discussion and help you work through your goals and setbacks. Peers can also provide the support needed to avoid substances and cope with stress or conflict that can often contribute to addiction. 
  • Outpatient services: Outpatient services provide flexibility for people with substance use disorder. These programs allow you to attend addiction treatment during the day and return home at night. As a result, outpatient care can be less intensive than inpatient care, but it’s beneficial for those with other obligations, such as school, work or child care. patients might attend one-on-one therapy sessions or attend support groups in outpatient programs.

The Process of Treating Steroid Addiction

The Process of Treating Steroid Addiction

Since steroid addiction can cause severe health problems, it’s essential that individuals enter a facility that medically and professionally addresses their needs. 

When individuals first enter a steroid addiction treatment center, licensed medical professionals will evaluate them for their treatment needs. This can help physicians determine how steroids might have impacted the patient’s behavior and hormonal balance. 

From here, the process of treating steroid addiction will vary depending on the person and their unique needs. Typically, addiction treatment will include:

1. Medical Detox

Medical professionals will first help the patient detox safely. A medically assisted detox can ease withdrawal symptoms and prevent complications associated with long-term steroid misuse. During detox, professionals will monitor the patient for any physical changes and side effects while eliminating the drug from the body. This might include a taper-down approach where physicians will gradually reduce the steroid dose until it has been safely removed from the bloodstream.

Doctors might also prescribe medications during detox, such as synthetic hormones to help balance testosterone levels or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate pain. 

2. Treatment Program

Treatment Program

When withdrawal symptoms subside and the patient is physically stabilized, they’ll learn the tools to manage their steroid addiction through inpatient, outpatient or partial hospitalization programs. Addiction specialists will evaluate your condition and design a treatment plan that appropriately addresses your situation. You’ll learn life skills and relapse prevention techniques to help you beat the cycle of addiction. 

People with mild steroid addiction often choose outpatient treatment for its flexible scheduling options. In outpatient care, you can continue going to school or work and care for your loved ones. 

In residential care, you can expect 24/7 supervision while following a daily routine, establishing a nutritious diet and participating in healthy hobbies and exercise. You may choose residential care if you do not have an adequate support system at home.

Outpatient, inpatient and hospitalization programs might offer individual or group therapy, motivational interviewing or support groups to help you heal and recover from steroid addiction. Licensed professionals can work with you to establish an ongoing treatment plan to support your ongoing health and wellness.

3. Aftercare

Since addiction is chronic, aftercare is essential to help you prevent relapse and continue down a healthy path. Outpatient care is typically provided as a step-down program following residential care. It can help patients transition to their daily lives and maintain sobriety post-treatment. Others may attend support groups and 12-step programs to support their aftercare needs. 

Even after professional treatment, individuals should stick to therapy and other forms of treatment to help prevent relapse. This way, they can learn healthy coping mechanisms, avoid triggers and promote lifelong sobriety. 

Benefits of Seeking Treatment for Steroid Addiction

Benefits of Seeking Treatment for Steroid Addiction

Ending your relationship with substances is a courageous act, but it’s also a process you don’t have to go through alone. You’ll gain a support network at a steroid addiction treatment center to help you reach sobriety and maintain a happier, healthier lifestyle. With physicians, peers and counselors on your side, treatment facilities can help you heal and overcome the cycle of steroid addiction.

Discover the potential benefits of entering a steroid addiction treatment program:

Social Support

Entering a treatment center means getting all the benefits social connection can provide. You’ll find endless opportunities to make friends and encourage others through recovery from support groups to therapy sessions and group activities.

The genuine connections made in treatment centers can facilitate your ongoing care and help you feel less alone. These friendships are often vital for the healing process and can act as support in times of need. Support groups can also help you make new connections once you’ve left your chosen professional rehabilitation setting. By working on your communication and learning how to ask for help, you can have an easier time forming a support network and staying sober post-treatment. 


Many people with substance use disorder also live unpredictable lives. They may worry about their finances or experience job loss due to addiction. This lack of structure can translate into chronic substance misuse.

When you enter an addiction treatment center, you’ll follow an organized plan that promotes healing and maintaining healthy hobbies. These routines can help you focus on your recovery and learn the appropriate coping mechanisms to regain control of your life. Feeling more in control might make you less likely to relapse. With an emphasis on structure, treatment programs help prioritize your recovery so you can overcome steroid addiction.



Treatment centers offer supervision in a substance-free environment. Each day at a treatment facility, you’ll be around peers and professionals eager to hear from you.

Counselors and health professionals can hold you accountable to stay sober and meet your treatment goals. At the same time, group therapy sessions are an excellent opportunity to discuss your goals with peers and hold each other accountable to continue down a healthy path. These programs can help you overcome your specific substance use problems and stay healthy and safe. 

Improved Quality of Life 

Beyond just working toward sobriety, professional treatment centers can help you achieve a better quality of life. Most facilities emphasize healthy hobbies and foods to benefit your mind and body. With daily diets consisting of nutrient-rich foods, you can experience reduced stress, boosted mood and an overall improved lifestyle. This way, you can restore your health and better focus on your recovery and happiness.

You might also participate in hobbies that keep you active and social while attending inpatient care. These activities promote substance-free living and may include: 

  • Meditation
  • Group games
  • Yoga
  • Hiking and nature walks
  • Music and art therapy 
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We’ll now answer a few common questions we receive about steroid treatment: 

1. What Medications Are Used in Steroid Addiction Treatment?

A steroid addiction treatment center might use clonidine to help manage anxiety or antidepressants to help minimize the effects of steroid withdrawal on depression. An endocrinologist may recommend synthetic hormones to help your body regain hormone balance.

A professional evaluation can determine the appropriate medications and therapies to help you heal from steroid misuse. By alleviating any distressful side effects, you can more safely and smoothly navigate the recovery process and start feeling better. 

2. Does Everyone Who Takes Steroids Become Addicted?

Not everyone who takes substances will become addicted. Since everyone’s brains and bodies are different, reactions to drugs will vary from person to person. Some people will quickly find themselves addicted to steroids, while others might gradually develop a substance problem. 

While many can develop a physical tolerance to substances, tolerance doesn’t always lead to addiction. Specific genetics and environmental factors can put people at a higher risk of developing substance use disorder.

3. How Do I Approach a Loved One Who Is Addicted to Steroids?

Steroids are often misused by athletes and bodybuilders who set unattainable goals for themselves. It can be challenging to overcome anabolic steroid misuse due to the feelings many might experience while taking them. Some athletes might receive more recognition due to bolstered strength from steroids. Others may feel better about their bodies when taking these substances and find quitting challenging. Recognizing addiction can be difficult for many people struggling with steroid misuse.

One of the best ways to support a loved one suffering from addiction is to learn more about their drug use. Educating yourself on how these substances affect the body and how your loved one may have succumbed to addiction can be beneficial. Express that you understand their feelings and are genuinely concerned for their well-being. Providing emotional support in times of need can encourage your loved one to seek professional help. 

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Get Help at Gateway Foundation’s Steroid Addiction Treatment Center in Chicago, IL 

Addiction can feel like a constant battle to regain control of your life. Choosing the recovery path is a courageous decision, and it’s essential that you know you are not alone. Gateway Foundation is an addiction treatment center in Chicago, Illinois, that can help you beat steroid addiction and improve your way of life.

The medical professionals at Gateway Foundation will create a comprehensive treatment plan that meets your goals and needs while focusing on improving your mind and body. Our compassionate and highly trained medical team at our steroid addiction treatment center in Illinois can help you escape the cycle of addiction and gain the resources to maintain a healthy, positive lifestyle post-treatment.

To learn more about our steroid addiction treatment programs, contact us today.