Anabolic steroids are a form of prescription medicine which are not generally associated with addiction, particularly among users. They are popularly taken by people wanting to get fit and maintain muscle bulk but their addictive nature is evidenced by those who continue you use them despite their long-term, detrimental effects.
Prolonged use of steroids can cause a disruption to the balance of hormones in an individual. Steroids are also called anabolic-androgenic because of their muscle and masculinizing effects. They are often administered in a medical capacity to deal with hormone imbalances in men and to combat certain illnesses such as when a disease causes muscle loss. They can be bought online and are readily available from certain sources in pill, cream and injection form.
For many abusers, steroids provide a way to stay in shape or maintain a high level of fitness for competitive sport. While the majority of abusers are male, it’s not unknown for females to also use steroids. Steroid abusers don’t just use these types of drugs either – many become addicted to stimulants like cocaine which can increase the risk of aggressive episodes and heart problems.
While much of the evidence for steroids has been focused on individuals such as weightlifters and athletes, in the developed world there seems to be an increasing problem with younger people using them for the simple purpose of looking good.
- Steroids can have effects in the short term including tiredness, lack of appetite and loss of libido.
- Long term use of steroids can include shrinking of the testicles, mania and mood swings, and the growth of breast tissue.
- In women it can cause facial hair to grow and interfere with the menstrual cycle.
- Abuse can lead to psychological problems such as paranoia, increased aggression, as well as health problems including kidney and liver failure.
Steroid Use in the United States
- In the USA, the American Journal of Sports Medicine has estimated that there are some 3 million people using steroids for one reason or another.
- Steroid use has increased significantly from the 1 million people who were taking them in 1991.
- Of the people who are not taking steroids for any prescribed medical reason, a large number (74%) appear to be in the highly educated demographic.
- They are also more likely to be professionals earning an above average income and in their 30s. The common reason for taking steroids in the USA is to enhance appearance.
- If steroids are used responsibly, they do not have an effect on the individual in terms of damaging them physically.
- Anabolic steroid use in children in the USA increased between 1991 and 2002 (1.9 to 2.5% in 8th Grade, 2.1 to 4% in 12th
- Steroid abuse is difficult to ascertain in the US. While only 6% of athletes are thought to be taking them, anecdotal evidence suggests that this could be much higher.
- In one study amongst body builders, the research found that over half of male participants were regularly using steroids while only 10% of females were.
Steroid Use in the UK
- Needle exchange in the UK for steroid use has increased by 600% over a decade in areas such as Cardiff and Glasgow, suggesting a significant rise in usage.
- According to a recent Sky News report, there could be as many as 1 million steroid users in the UK.
- HIV infection rates amongst steroid users is as high as for injectors of addictive drugs such as heroin (1.5%).
- As in the US, steroid use amongst teenagers is rising, thought to be because of body image issues such as having to have more muscle bulk and definition.
- Police have found children as young as 13 using steroids.
- In 2014, police seizures of performance enhancing drugs such as steroids increased by 35%.
Steroid Use in Australia
- Seizures of steroid drugs by the police have also increased in Australia with potential use of image enhancing drugs increasing from 2 to 7% between 2010 and 2014.
- Between 2007 and 2012, the number of people being arrested for steroid use rose by 213%.
- Young men are now more likely to inject steroids than they are other drugs such as methamphetamine or heroin.
- Anecdotal research suggests that the average user of steroids and other image enhancing substances doesn’t see him or herself as a drug user in the traditional sense.
- Some evidence suggests that those who take steroids regularly are twice as likely to be involved in violent incidences compared to those who do not take steroids.
What is Steroid Addiction?
Association Against Steroid Abuse
The Effects of Steroid Use
Anabolic Steroid Misuse
List of Anabolic Steroids