Anabolic Steroid Abuse Symptoms, Side Effects & Treatment

Anabolic steroids are extremely useful in the medical field. For example, they are used in the treatment of patients with severe wasting disease caused by ailments, such as; cancer and HIV/AIDS. In the world of bodybuilding and sports in general, anabolic steroids are performance enhancing drugs that offer multiple benefits, such as:

  • building and maintaining muscle mass,
  • burning calories and excess body fat,
  • improving overall muscle strength,
  • boosting stamina,
  • enhancing endurance levels, and
  • promoting quick recovery from strained and/or damaged muscles.

However, like any other prescription or illicit drug, anabolic steroids can also be misused and the symptoms of steroid abuse can be devastating and even life-threatening. A dependency or addiction to Anabolic steroids is the main causative factor leading to abuse. As with other substances, the continual use of steroids can make the body to be totally dependent on the stimulant or opioids that it makes it difficult for a person to function normally without them.

I. Forms of Anabolic Steroid Abuse

The abuse of anabolic steroids can take many forms and in the case of bodybuilding, these can be;

  • During Cycling: This is when you use certain doses of anabolic steroids (daily or so) for a predetermined length of time, for example for a 6 to 12 week cycling period. Anabolic steroid abuse may arise during cycling when you use a higher than recommended daily dose and/or when you use the steroids for a much longer period of time without breaking.
  • During Stacking: Stacking involves the use of two or more steroids in order to achieve much better outcomes. However, during stacking you could abuse steroids when you combine an excessive number and variety of steroids and use these steroids over an extended length of time.
  • During Pyramiding: Bodybuilders on a pyramid steroid course will either gradually raise the daily or otherwise dosage of their steroids or adjust the frequency of their steroid use until they attain an optimum level of use, then they subsequently reduce the frequency or dosage accordingly.

However, abuse during pyramiding may occur when a person continuously increases the dosage of the steroids they use and/or the frequency of their steroid use to extremely dangerous levels.

It is important to note that during an abuse of steroids, some bodybuilders may engage in unhealthy practices, such as; sharing needles, vials or both. This practice can lead to individuals contracting hepatitis, HIV/AIDS or both.

II. Symptoms of Steroid Abuse

Some of the signs and symptoms of steroid abuse particularly amongst bodybuilders include;

  • Exceedingly Quick Muscle Mass Gain: The correct use of anabolic steroids for a bulking cycle can provide you with tremendous muscle gain results, but this would be achieved with a proper workout plan over an extensive period of time.

However, where a bodybuilder suddenly has massive muscles in a short length of time (within a couple of months), it is highly possible that the bodybuilder is misusing and abusing steroids.

  • Multiple Track Marks: The use of injectable steroids can leave a number of holes in your skin, but if you have to use injectable steroids, it is best to alternate between arms, legs or buttocks as the case may be.

Sadly, one of the telltale signs and symptoms of steroid abuse are the multiple track marks on a person’s skin that usually appear inflamed and reddish. Multiple track marks often suggest that a person is abusing steroids especially when the track marks as virtually on both arms, legs and buttocks.

  • Erratic, Aggressive Behaviour: A person abusing steroids may try to hide the fact that they are dependent on performance enhancing drugs. They may exhibit an erratic, unpredictable behaviour and may even become unnecessarily aggressive towards others in what is commonly known as “roid rage”.

III. Side Effects of Anabolic Steroid Abuse

There are many side effects of anabolic steroid abuse. These side effects can be physical and mental in nature and can also be subtle, severe and even life-threatening.

 1.  Subtle Side Effects of Steroid Abuse:

The subtle or mild side effects of steroid abuse may be reversible and irreversible in nature. Some of these side effects include:


  • Breakouts, pimples or acne,
  • Deepened voice in females,
  • Increased body and facial hair (on both male and female steroid abusers),
  • Oil and greasy hair,
  • Baldness that affects both male and female steroid users,
  • Gynecomastia (male boobs),
  • Shrunken testicles,
  • Shrunken breasts in female steroid users,
  • Mood swings, and
  • Irritability .

2.  Severe Side Effects of Anabolic Steroid Abuse:

Steroid abuse can also lead to severe physical and mental side effects that may or may not be reversible, such as:

  • A compromised immune system,
  • Infertility,
  • Delusions,
  • Depression, and
  • Anxiety .

3.  Life-threatening Side Effects of Anabolic Steroid Abuse:

When steroids are misused and abused, it can lead to a shortening of a person’s lifespan as well as life-threatening conditions, such as; stroke, heart attack and others like;

  • Liver damage, tumors and cancer: Oral steroids with high hepatotoxicity can adversely affect the liver when used continually over a period of time. When these drugs are misused and abused, a person’s propensity to some form of liver damage increases exponentially.

Normally, liver protection drugs are recommended when oral steroids are used, but even these drugs may have little effect on protecting the liver when oral steroids are abused.

  • Homicide and suicide: Unfortunately, “roid rage” which is one of the symptoms of steroid abuse can make a person to commit homicide and being overwhelmed with grief, such a person may also decide to take their own life.

 IV. Treatment of Steroid Abuse

The treatment of steroid abuse is multifaceted and would include a peer support group and steroid abuse program where other steroid abusers are part of and share a similar substance dependency problem. Apart from joining a peer support group, a person abusing steroids would also have to be treated for withdrawal symptoms once he or she gradually, but surely stops using the steroids.

Some of the common withdrawal symptoms include mental issues, such as:

  • Anxiety,
  • Attention deficiencies,
  • Depression, and
  • Sleeping problems.

Common physical symptoms of withdrawal include; headaches, migraines, body pain, and drop in libido. A bodybuilder that has been abusing steroids over a long period of time would have to be eased of the steroids in a gradual process involving the reduction of the dosage of steroids being used up to a point where the steroids are no longer taken by the abuser.

In Closing

To treat the psychological reason(s) behind a person’s abuse of steroids, psychotherapy becomes a necessary and important part of treatment. The mental health symptoms of depression can be treated with the prescription antidepressants medications. Also, for headaches and body pains, analgesic medications can be prescribed and used by the patient.

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