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Steroids Addiction Help & Treatment

    Steroids Addiction Help & Treatment

    There are around 1 million Brits taking steroids.

    This number is growing and the situation has been described as an epidemic.

    Although anabolic steroids have long been associated with professional bodybuilders, many non-professional weight lifters use them to change their physical appearance.

    Because they -typically- care greatly about their appearance, it’s common for steroid users to mentally separate themselves from what they perceive to be the “typical drug user”.

    However, drug addiction remains drug addiction whatever the substance.

    Steroids might make a person feel like they look good, but there are many negative and grave health effects.

    Finding out about these and how to gain rehabilitation support is critical.

    What Are Steroids?

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    There are two types of steroids:

    1. Corticosteroids, which stop allergic reactions. They’re a type of synthetic cortisol and can control inflammation.
    2. Anabolic steroids, aka anabolic-androgenic steroids. The active chemical in anabolic steroids is a man-made hormone that mimics testosterone, the male sex hormone.

    This article is focused on anabolic steroids.

    Anabolic Steroids

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    Anabolic steroids activate DNA in muscle cells and this makes proteins that build muscle.

    They are also masculinising.

    There are over one hundred types, a small selection of which may be prescribed by doctors to treat specific illnesses.

    Steroids, though, are also gained illegally.

    These are made in “underground laboratories” and are a Class C drug.

    There are websites that “look” British that sell anabolic steroids online, but it’s likely that these steroids mainly enter the country illegally from other countries.

    In the UK anabolic steroids can only be legally obtained via a GP’s prescription.

    What Form Do Anabolic Steroids Come In?

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    Steroids are available in a variety of forms:

    • Injectable liquids
    • Gels and lotions to apply to the skin
    • Pills

    There are many types of anabolic steroids available in the UK that come under many different names.

    They tend to be sold to “bulk”, “cut”, “strengthen”, or as an “all-purpose” fitness product.

    How People Take Steroids

    People who take steroids to build muscle often follow programmes of use.

    These can include:

    • Cycling- This means using steroids for periods of time and then stopping to allow the body to repair naturally.
    • Stacking- Where users take more than one type of steroid due to increased tolerance.
    • Pyramiding- This is where users start on a reduced amount of the steroid during an “on” cycle before building it up to the largest amount they’ll take in the middle of the cycle before reducing down again until they abstain for a period.

    What Do Doctors Prescribe Steroids For?

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    It’s correct that doctors sometimes prescribe anabolic steroids to treat certain symptoms, illnesses, or conditions.

    Under medical supervision, they can improve quality of life of those who require particular physical support.

    Steroids may be prescribed for:

    • Delayed puberty
    • Hormonal imbalances
    • Around symptoms of some cancers
    • Osteoporosis
    • Anaemia
    • Impotence
    • Where disease has caused muscle loss

    Side Effects Of Illegal Steroid Use

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    As with any substance that has an impact on the brain and body, there are side effects that are especially obvious when steroids are used illegally.

    When people use steroids without medical guidance they increase the risk of danger to their health.

    • Oily skin and acne
    • Fluid retention
    • Impotence and reduced sperm count
    • Paranoia
    • Fatigue
    • Hormonal imbalances affecting mood (irritability, depression, aggression)
    • Delusions

    The Brain, Steroid Use And Addiction

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    One of the interesting things about anabolic steroid addiction is that it works a little differently compared to many other substances.

    Steroids don’t give users an immediate high.

    To understand why people become addicted, it’s useful to know a little about how exercise works and how the brain’s reward system works.

    During regular exercise, muscles “tear”.

    During “rest days” the body repairs itself and then during the next lot of exercise, the muscles tear a little more.

    This strengthens the muscles and body.

    When anabolic steroids are used, they help the muscles to tear and repair more quickly.

    Steroid users can therefore exercise more often and “go harder”.

    Steroids can also increase endurance and stamina, meaning people can exercise for longer too.

    How Addiction To Steroids Occurs

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    The “reward” system in the brain is triggered and addiction can develop when users start achieving their “desired appearance” quickly.

    Usually, the user wants to look bigger and stronger.

    Steroids help the user to get results more quickly.

    This is where a compulsive need to seek out and take the steroids can develop; because the user wants to maintain their “new look”.

    Also, due to the effects of steroids, withdrawal symptoms can develop and perpetuate use.

    Steroids And The Physical Brain

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    In terms of physicality, anabolic steroids are shown to increase the size of the amygdala in the brain.

    The amygdala essentially controls emotions, and the effects of steroids on aggression, low moods and anxiety is especially noticeable.

    Steroids also reduce a type of sugar in the brain called scyllo-Inositol, and this can lead to the onset of dementia.

    Steroids: Psychological Addiction And Physical Dependency

    Research has demonstrated that 32% of steroid users develop a dependency.

    It’s also very common for people who use steroids to have a mental health condition linked to body dysmorphia.

    Users may have a physical goal at the start of using steroids, but if they become addicted will keep pushing themselves after this initial goal is achieved.

    Anabolic steroids create a physical dependency as well as a psychological addiction.

    When a person is physically dependent, they will experience physical withdrawal symptoms (i.e. shaking, cramping).

    A person with a psychological addiction will experience mental withdrawal symptoms (i.e. mood swings, depression).

    How Do You Know If You Have An Addiction?

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    There are very clear signs you can look out for which will reveal that you have developed an addiction to anabolic steroids.

    These include:

    • Increasing the dose of steroids to experience an effect.
    • Trying to stop taking steroids but not being able to.
    • Spending money you don’t have to get them, getting into debt, stealing to fund steroid use, or “ticking” the substance.
    • Developing undesirable effects linked to excessive, prolonged, and/or chronic use, such as hair loss or reduced penis size.
    • Negative family issues linked to your steroid habit: strained relationships, arguments, etc.

    Withdrawal Symptoms Of Steroid Addiction

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    For those who develop an addiction to anabolic steroids, there will be withdrawal symptoms.

    These can be extremely distressing for users, especially when medical or professional support isn’t sought.

    Withdrawal symptoms include:

    • Headaches
    • Muscle and joint pain
    • Suicidal depression
    • Tiredness
    • Insomnia
    • Reduced libido
    • Reduced appetite
    • Anorexia
    • Mood swings
    • Losing body mass

    Societal Impact: Why Do People Get Addicted To Steroids?

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    It’s important to draw attention to the fact that the increasing illegal use of anabolic steroids in the UK is especially apparent amongst young men.

    This is very much an addiction that stems from societal pressures from the media for men to look and behave a certain way.

    Body image in a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “reverse anorexia” or muscle dysmorphia means many young men see themselves as looking too thin, skinny, or weak.

    This, for the vast majority, is a driving force behind steroid use and thereafter addiction.

    Polysubstance Drug Use Including Steroids

    As people use steroids more often, they experience a reduction in brain chemicals that enable them to experience positive emotions such as pleasure.

    When this happens, users can be more likely to start taking or using higher amounts of other substances, such as:

    This might be done to try and improve their moods, but these are deadly combinations and can result in increased aggression as well as health issues linked to the heart, liver and kidneys.

    Long Term Health Risks Of Steroid Use

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    For people who use steroids long-term, there are serious negative health effects.

    These include:

    • Hair loss
    • Impotence
    • Dementia
    • Blood clotting
    • Cardiac problems
    • Kidney dysfunction
    • Liver damage and liver cancer
    • Insulin resistance can occur leading to type 2 diabetes
    • Increased risk of early death
    • Mania
    • Increased risk of blood borne viruses if people share needles
    • “Feminisation” in men, meaning they can develop “breasts” when they stop taking steroids

    How To Support Someone You Love Who Is Addicted To Steroids

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    Maybe you have suspicions that someone you love is addicted to steroids.

    There are certain things you can look out for, including:

    • Bottles and pills with their gym kit
    • Track marks or injection scars
    • Increased body size
    • Acne
    • Strange smell from lotions

    When you approach someone to bring this up, it’s important to be calm and compassionate.

    It’s also useful if you do a little research first to find out about steroids, their effects, and what treatment options there are if it seems that the person you love has an addiction.

    It’s useful to bear in mind that many people remain in denial of their addiction.

    This can go on for years and be very distressing to witness.

    What can help is focusing on the positive aspects of your relationship and supporting them to be healthy in other ways, such as through their diet.

    Another important thing to consider is your own self-care.

    Reaching out to organisations that support the families of drug users can be really helpful at giving you tips on how to look after yourself.

    Treatment Options For Steroid Addiction

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    One of the most relevant areas that needs to be addressed for people addicted to steroids is their mental health.

    This type of addiction is very much linked to self-esteem and body dysmorphia.

    Some research also revealed that people who use anabolic steroids illegally are more likely to have been physically or sexually abused.

    It goes without saying that specialist psychological support in the form of therapy and counselling is instrumental in supporting a person’s recovery.

    Inpatient Or Outpatient Facilities?

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    There are two types of treatment services people can enter to access support to quit steroids.

    Outpatient services are where a person remains living at home but goes to a clinic to receive treatment.

    This might be group therapy or a one-to-one, such as counselling.

    Outpatient services are what local drug and alcohol services base their organisation on.

    Some private clinics also offer outpatient services to people who were previously residents.

    Inpatient services are where a person goes to stay at a rehab clinic for a period of time.

    These offer 24/7 hour care, specialist addiction staff and an immersive approach to weaning the person safely off steroids through detox and therapies.

    Going to rehab can be extremely effective.

    They also offer an aftercare programme in case of severe steroid addiction, which supports a person to remain abstinent long-term.

    How Much Is It To Stay At Rehab?

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    To stay at rehab it can cost anywhere from £1,000-£10,000 a week.

    It really depends on where you go, what’s on offer, and whether the centre is a high-end establishment or something more affordable.

    For those with private health insurance, you might be to go to rehab through the policy.

    Rehab Treatment For Steroid Addiction

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    There are two parts to rehab: the detox to tackle the physical dependency and the therapeutic aspect to address the psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual elements.

    The Detox

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    Due to the severe effects that steroids have on your mood, a supervised deto0x where medication might be prescribed is advisable.

    People withdrawing from steroids can experience severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

    Mental health support during the detox period through counselling and the prescription of any suitable medication helps make withdrawal as safe and comfortable as possible.

    Residents will go through a tapered detox.

    Those with physical dependencies are given “comfort medication”.

    This is often a synthetic hormone replacement in order to balance out testosterone, which will beweaned gradually over a period of around 10 days.

    It’s likely that residents might also be prescribed anti-depressants to fight any depressive symptoms.

    There are also medications that might be administered to ease muscle spasms, cramps, lower blood pressure and offer pain relief.

    Therapeutic Approaches

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    There are many therapies that will structure a timetable of rehabilitative psychological and emtional support.

    These often include:

    • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is an essential element of rehabilitation. It’s especially useful in supporting a person around depression and negative feelings around body image.
    • Dialectical Behavioural Therapy is great for those who might have experienced traumatic events and require support at processing emotions healthily.
    • Motivational Interviewing helps support a person to develop self-confidence and to build on the motivation to remain abstinent long-term.
    • Group Therapies such as 12 Step and SMART groups are a staple of recovery. These offer excellent ways to connect to others through mutual understanding of how substances can take over life and how to remain socially connected to support healing.
    • Other activities include music and art therapies, yoga, reiki, equine therapy and ear acupuncture.

    Relapse Prevention After Rehab

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    As part of an aftercare programme on leaving a rehab clinic, a relapse prevention plan will be in place.

    For the person in recovery for steroids, there will be clear guidelines on skills and actions they can use when they feel emotionally triggered, or experience a craving.

    As well as this, the plan might include ongoing outpatient therapy or counselling, steps around changing lifestyle and interests, as well as any necessary ongoing medications.

    Final Thoughts

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    Anabolic steroid use in the UK is a growing issue which predominantly affects young men.

    It is linked to a negative body image and because steroids increase body mass quickly, they can become very addictive.

    The negative health effects of regular steroid use are grave, including issues linked to failing organs.

    Users who become addicted can experience both physical and psychological addiction.

    Treatment services in the UK are available, with private rehab clinics offering a total approach to rehabilitation.

    If you’re concerned you have an addiction to steroids, contact Rehab Recovery today.

    Our team can explain what your local treatment options are and support you on your first step to recovery.

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