Using steroids can result in a variety of side effects. These side effects can be physical and mental 1. The severity of the side effects and the specific side effects that are experienced can differ from user to user, but men and women will both experience reproductive system changes from odd hair growth to changes in breast size. In addition, steroid users will manifest physical changes such as increased muscle size. The most severe and unexpected side effects that come from steroid use are emotional 1.
Steroid usage can lead to an increase in impulses. These impulses can lead to dangerous activities such as other drug use and taking unnecessary risks. The steroid user may notice that they are more impulsive than normal and try to offset this by using depressants such as alcohol to combat this side effect. In addition, these impulses can lead to what is known as “roid rage.” This phenomenon is the quick anger that is often seen in steroid users. The steroid user may become very angry over insignificant events. Despite the fact that this side effect of steroids is the most commonly reported, it is difficult to prove the connection between specific anger outbursts and steroid use. As SteroidAbuse.org notes, many of the personality characteristics of steroid users are different in the first place, making it difficult to judge whether steroids increases their general tendency towards anger. However, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that when volunteers were given high doses of steroids, they often reported increased levels of aggression 2.
- Steroid usage can lead to an increase in impulses.
- Despite the fact that this side effect of steroids is the most commonly reported, it is difficult to prove the connection between specific anger outbursts and steroid use.
The Mental Side Effects of Steroids
Mania is an additional side effect of steroid usage. When a steroid user experiences mania they are losing touch with reality. The loss of reality can result in the user doing things that they would normally avoid such as theft and other illegal activities. Mania can cause the user to be in a better-than-normal mood, despite their circumstances, or to be extremely irritable. Mania can also lead to delusions or hallucinations.
- Mania is an additional side effect of steroid usage.
- The loss of reality can result in the user doing things that they would normally avoid such as theft and other illegal activities.
Depression can result from withdrawal from the drug and can be severe enough to lead to suicide.The severity of depression varies from user to user, but research shows that steroid users may turn to other drugs to alleviate their symptoms if any of the emotional side effects are painful enough, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse 12.
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- Steroid Abuse: Men and Steroids-Psychological and Emotional Effects
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Anabolic Steroid Abuse
- Bipolar Home: Understanding Mania
- Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science: Anabolic Steroids
- Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Drug Guide: Steroids. Published online, no date.
- Basaria S, Wahlstrom JT, Dobs AS. Clinical review 138: Anabolic-androgenic steroid therapy in the treatment of chronic diseases. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001;86(11):5108-17. doi:10.1210/jcem.86.11.7983
- Drug Enforcement Administration, Diversion Control Division. Rules 2005: Implementation of the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004. FR Doc 05-23907, December 16, 2005. 70(241)74653-74658. From the Federal Register Online. DOCID:fr16de05-7
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA issues warning about body-building products labeled to contain steroid and steroid-like substances. Updated online, June, 20, 2017.
- Drug Enforcement Administration, Diversion Control Division. Steroid Abuse in Today's Society: A Guide for Understanding Steroids and Related Substances. Published online, March 2004.
- Christou MA, Christou PA, Markozannes G, Tsatsoulis A, Mastorakos G, Tigas S. Effects of Anabolic Androgenic Steroids on the Reproductive System of Athletes and Recreational Users: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Sports Med. 2017;47(9):1869-1883. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0709-z
- National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Steroids and Other Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs). Published online, updated February 21, 2018.
- Pope HG, Kouri EM, Hudson JI. Effects of supraphysiologic doses of testosterone on mood and aggression in normal men: a randomized controlled trial. Archives of general psychiatry. Feb 1, 2000;57(2):133-40.
- Kanayama G, Brower KJ, Wood RI, Hudson JI, Pope HG. Anabolic-androgenic steroid dependence: an emerging disorder. Addiction. 2009;104(12):1966-78. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2009.02734.x
- Goldberg L, Elliot D, Clarke GN, MacKinnon DP, Moe E, Zoref L, Green C, Wolf SL, Greffrath E, Miller DJ, Lapin A. Effects of a multidimensional anabolic steroid prevention intervention: The Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids (ATLAS) Program. JAMA. 1996 Nov 20;276(19):1555-62.
- Elliot DL, Goldberg L. Athletes targeting healthy exercise and nutrition alternatives. Handbook of prevention and intervention programs for adolescent girls. 2008:206.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. Anabolic steroids. MedlinePlus. Reviewed August 18, 2014.
- UK National Health Service. Anabolic steroid misuse. Choices: Your health, your choices. Published August 2013
Whitney Hooley is beginning her career as a writer. She has a bachelor's degree in religion and psychology as well as a master's degree in kinesiology. Hooley is also an ACSM-certified personal trainer and a former NCAA Division I swim coach.