Though sold legally for certain cases, such as hormone deficiencies, anabolic steroids are quite popular in the underground drug market, among people seeking to “get ripped” in a hurry. Addiction sets in quickly, and puts thousands of users at risk for the drug’s damaging long-term effects.
A limited number of the 100 anabolic steroid varieties are prescribed by doctors. The biology of steroids – a shot of testosterone, the male hormone – helps people with developmental problems, or hormone deficiencies, get to a healthy size. Patients with diseases like cancer or AIDS, which eat away at the body, are often prescribed the medication to reverse damage to their muscle mass. Anabolic steroids have been benefitting people in these ways since their conception in the 1930s.
2 Million Americans have used steroids at some point in their lives.
It didn’t take long, though, for the secret of their muscle-building power to get out. Athletes started dosing up on steroids to enhance their performance; the practice continues to this day, as you may see in the news. Illegal production steadily increased, as people – mostly men – sought out the drugs to build their muscles quickly, for a confidence booster and an upper hand in competitive sports.
Now, an estimated $400 million in black-market steroids trades hands each year, with $100 million of that in America alone. Using steroids – or “juicing” as it’s called – creates new users daily, who overlook the risks for an easy shortcut to getting big.
You may be considering juicing for the first time, or already know someone who’s doing it. In our image-obsessed culture, people are constantly looking for simple ways to get fit – especially athletes, as the average skills and size of the competition inflates all the time.
Be warned that one fix is rarely, if ever, enough to satisfy the goals of getting bigger.
“Steroids are black magic,” said Paul Solotaroff, an individual who recovered from steroids addiction, “but their sorcery unveils in steady accretions of mass.”
The usual scenario then, plays out like this. You start taking steroids, and without seeing immediate results, you in turn up your dosage. You become obsessed with the desire to get ripped; then, as you finally start to see the effects, your personal goals for yourself become bigger and bigger. This means more working out, more eating, and yes, more steroids. Just like that, psychological addiction grabs hold of you, or as Solotaroff referred to his own experience, “an onset of physical madness” takes place.
My appetite doubled, then doubled again: I ate like a man going to the chair. In a month, I put on 10 pounds of mass and was beating my max daily on benches and curls. If I wasn’t in the weight room I was fiending for it, strung out on the flush of tipped endorphins and that gorgeous burn of blood and glycogen that bodybuilders call the Pump.
Experimenting with steroids can seem harmless enough – they lack the immediate risks of many other drugs. But the damaging effects become apparent over time. Addiction to steroids is very real, and the synthetic strength they supply only lasts for so long. Soon enough the ugly side of using steroids becomes impossible to ignore.
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The term “roid rage” describes a common symptom of steroid abuse: increased aggression, underlined by sometimes violent mood swings. Excessive amounts of testosterone create an imbalance that makes it difficult to control one’s emotions, and this can endanger those in the company of a regular steroid user. Paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability and impaired judgment create a volatile mixture that can lead to violent attacks, including murder in some cases.
Blatant changes in appearance may be the easiest way to spot someone who’s been juicing. If you notice a friend’s muscle mass increasing at an unusually fast rate, and to a potentially unhealthy degree, steroids may be involved. You may also notice them working out and eating more and more, and putting workouts ahead of their other obligations. This, combined with “roid rage,” can be a dead giveaway that steroids are at play.
High amounts of testosterone injected into the body not only create an emotional imbalance, but a physical one as well.
As steroids do their work building muscle and bone, they also disregulate crucial male functions, boosting some and braking others.
“The process starts mildly (increased oil-gland output and a great blooming bush of pubic hair) but gets more onerous as you go. The hair on your head begins falling out, your body cuts production of natural testosterone and converts what it makes to estrogen instead, and eventually your pecs turn squishy-soft.”
In males abusing steroids, erectile dysfunction, shrinking testicles and reduced sperm count are additional side effects of this hormone shift. Women who abuse the drug can experience breast reduction, deepened voice and abnormal menstrual cycles.
Increased activity of the liver and heart create a serious risk for these organs. Combined with other drugs or heavy drinking, steroid abuse can result in death. Because steroids are typically injected, this opens a set of risks related to needle usage; these include bacterial infections, abscesses, and transfer of HIV and AIDS.
Other risks include:
Coming off steroids can be dangerous once you develop a regular habit. Going cold turkey causes a massive drop in blood levels of the hormones, which can induce a delayed depression lasting for several months. It can also stir up body image issues, once the user realizes they must abandon their newfound muscle mass. Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon in addicts breaking away from the drug.
I did quit, finally, with the help of a good shrink who connected my tension and pendulous moods to my stop-and-start romance with juicing.
Stopping a serious pattern of steroid abuse, then, should be done under medical supervision. A residential rehab stint may offer the best course of action. It takes the body up to 4 weeks to return to its natural hormone production, and in the months following this exists the highest risk period for relapse. Medications that restore hormonal systems, along with antidepressants, are often prescribed to help addicts work through withdrawal.
Following detox, supportive therapy with a qualified specialist can help you sort out your problem, and help you develop the strength to avoid using once and for all.