Anabolic Steroid Abuse

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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How are anabolic steroid abuse and addiction diagnosed?

The diagnosis of anabolic steroid abuse in high school, college, and professional athletes may occur with a failed drug test, but many people who abuse these drugs are never randomly tested. The diagnosis is often made when they present with one of the side effects of steroid use.

Once the potential diagnosis of drug abuse is considered, it is important that the health-care provider offer the opportunity for the patient to consider drug treatment options, just like any other addictive drug. However, the first step in diagnosis and treatment must be taken by the patient to admit there is a potential for abuse and their willingness to consider intervention and treatment.

What is the treatment for anabolic steroid abuse and addiction?

Counseling is the mainstay of therapy for anabolic steroid abuse. The patient and their support group, family and friends, need to appreciate that the approach to this addiction may be similar to addiction to other drugs and alcohol.

Depression and suicidal thoughts may occur when the steroids are stopped, and this potential must be monitored closely.

Withdrawal symptoms vary with each patient, and the health-care professional may need to prescribe short courses of medications to help with headaches, muscle aches, and insomnia.

Is it possible to prevent anabolic steroid abuse and addiction?

Prevention of steroid abuse begins at a young age. There is pressure even at middle school to take drugs to increase performance on the playing field and in the gym. As well, personal appearance and perception begin early on. Unrealistic expectations can drive adolescent boys and girls to try to achieve the often unrealistic image of models in fashion magazines and athletes in the gym.

Counseling and guidance that continues through high school and beyond has been shown to be effective in decreasing steroid use in the younger population.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the use of anabolic steroids continues to be a significant problem in the adolescent population. Their continuing monitoring studies found that in 2014 the following percentage of students used anabolic steroids in the past year:

  • 8th grade, 0.6%
  • 10th grade, 0.8%
  • 12th grade, 1.5%

Over their lifetime, 1.9% of the 12th graders had abused steroids.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/23/2015
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  • Steroid Abuse - Reasons for Abuse

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  • Steroid Abuse - Side Effects

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  • Steroid Abuse - Treatment

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  • Steroid Abuse - Prevention

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