Steroid withdrawal isn’t particularly dangerous, but it can be very uncomfortable. Ending steroid abuse, addiction and dependence is essential for preventing devastating health effects down the road, which for men include decreased sperm count, shrinking testicles and the development of breasts. For women, long-term steroid abuse can lead to changes in menstrual cycle, male-pattern baldness and enlarged sex organs.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, steroid abuse can lead to dependence and addiction, even though steroids don’t produce the same “high” that other drugs do. Steroid abuse is characterized by using steroids in a way that causes problems in your life, including relationship, health, legal and financial troubles. Addiction is characterized by compulsive use despite these negative consequences. Dependence is characterized by steroid withdrawal symptoms that set in when you stop using steroids suddenly.
How Does Steroid Dependence Develop?
Anabolic steroids are a synthetic variation of testosterone, the male sex hormone. People who abuse steroids take them as a pill, patch, cream or injection, and the doses can be up to 100 times higher than doses that are prescribed to treat illnesses like AIDS and cancer. These high doses of steroids increase testosterone levels in the body, and as a result, the body decreases its own testosterone production in an attempt to maintain normal function. Then, when you stop using steroids, steroid withdrawal symptoms occur, persisting until the body’s own testosterone production rebounds.
Steroid Withdrawal Symptoms
Steroid withdrawal produces symptoms that are the opposite of the drug’s effects, which include increased energy, better concentration, and a higher sex drive. Steroid withdrawal symptoms include:
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Loss of appetite.
- Decreased sex drive.
- Joint and muscle pain.
- Nausea and vomiting.
Medical detox through a high quality treatment program can help you through steroid withdrawal. During medical detox, medications are administered as needed to reduce the severity of withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, detox may involve tapering down doses to prevent symptoms altogether.
How Long Does Steroid Withdrawal Last?
How long the symptoms of steroid withdrawal last depend on a number of factors, including:
- The type of steroid used.
- The amount of steroids in the system at the time of detox.
- How long you’ve been using steroids.
- Your age and general state of physical and mental health.
In general, the first steroid withdrawal symptoms begin within five days of the last dose. The initial symptoms include irritability, nausea and headache. These usually worsen within a couple of days, and additional symptoms set in, including depression and anxiety. Withdrawal symptoms typically peak around the second week after the last dose of steroids, and most fade away completely soon after.
Medical Detox is Only the First Step of Treatment
Detoxing from steroids is only the first step in treating the addiction, which is far more complex and requires a variety of therapies that help you get to the bottom of underlying issues, such as depression and body image issues. The National Institute on Drug Abuse stresses that detox alone does little to treat the addiction, and addressing the issues behind the addiction is essential for preventing a relapse back into steroid use.
A holistic treatment program can help you end your steroid dependence and addiction for good while improving your life and health on many fronts. Treatment works, and it can work for you.