According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), anabolic-androgenic steroids, or AASs, have a huge potential for dependency and addiction. Because of this, they are a Schedule III controlled substance. Although there is no denying that many people abuse, is it really possible to become dependent on them, or even addicted to them? Dependence is a real threat for many, but it’s possible to avoid and overcome it.
What Construes Dependence or Addiction?
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines addiction and substance dependence as “a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress”. Furthermore, the APA goes on to list different criteria for dependency and addiction, claiming an individual may be suffering from steroid dependency and addiction if three or more occur within 12 months. They include:
- Withdrawal – This occurs when an individual experiences withdrawal symptoms, or continues to use over a longer period of time than intended to avoid those symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms result from the body’s physical dependence on the hormones. Over time, the body depends on those hormones to function, so when they are taken away, the body reacts – sometimes in serious ways. Withdrawal symptoms may be psychological and include feelings of irritability and depression. They may also be physical and include significant weight loss, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems.
- Tolerance – The APA defines this as the need to take more and more of a substance to reap its effects or a diminished effect over time when using the same amount of a substance. Simply put, there comes a time when those dealing with steroid dependency and addiction must take more to continue getting the same effects. This can be dangerous, especially when individuals use very large doses over long periods.
- Inability to stop – The APA also says that the inability to stop using a drug, despite a marked desire to do so, points to steroid dependency and addiction. In some cases, individuals may not express any desire to stop using a product, even when it becomes obvious that the steroid is doing physical and psychological harm. This is also a sign of dependence.
- The “takes over” – Individuals spend more and more time trying to find, using, or recovering from. Their lives revolve around these processes, and in some cases, and may consume their thoughts. This is often one of the signs of significant dependency and addiction, and it signals that the individual may need therapy to help them learn to live their lives without.
- Social avoidance – This occurs when people stop seeing friends and family or give up on hobbies due to their use. Often, people dealing with steroid dependency and addiction avoid social interaction because they don’t want their friends and family to know they are using. If someone seems to withdraw from social events, or if they no longer participate in their favorite hobbies, it is a sign of steroid dependence.
- Continued use despite medical problems – The APA says that people who continue to use a substance despite the knowledge that the substance is causing significant medical issues are addicted. This is true even if the individual expresses the desire to stop, yet does not seek medical help.
- Falsification – Finally, if an individual falsifies prescriptions, steals the drug, or steals for the money to obtain it, he or she is most likely suffering from dependency and addiction.
Do They Really Count?
The great debate, however, lies in the fact that most athletes and bodybuilders do not consider anabolic steroids a “recreational” drug. They do not use to get high or escape from life; they use them to improve the overall condition of their bodies and help them build solid muscle or cut stubborn body fat. As such, they claim that there is no potential for true addiction and there is nothing to worry about.
Although this argument seems to make sense, the truth is that the human body does become dependent on them over time. This is why bodybuilders plan for PCT – not only to boost testosterone production, but also to counteract the body’s inherent dependency. Often, those who find themselves dealing with steroid dependency and addiction also suffer from underlying mental conditions, including body dysmorphia. This condition is marked by an individual’s obsession or preoccupation with minor (and sometimes even imaginary) perceived flaws. In the case of bodybuilders, some believe they are not big enough, even after gaining tens of pounds very quickly. This may lead them to continue using, even when it is unsafe to do so, which is the very basis of dependence. Some individuals may use to counteract fatigue, stress, and a sense of physical weakness, but this is quite rare.
Do You Need to Worry?
Most experts agree that anabolics, like other drugs, medications, and supplements, are quite safe when used responsibly. When it comes to withdrawal symptoms, this is not always an accurate way to judge your level of dependency because certain symptoms are expected. The best way to prevent anabolic-androgenic steroid dependency and addiction is to use them at the lowest doses that offer results and for the shortest length of time possible. If you are concerned with addiction and dependency, there are a few tips and tricks to follow to ensure your safety.
- Do you really need them? Often, people use as a “get-fit-quick” medicine that allows them to bypass hard work. While there are some that may cause you to shed fat or gain muscle, even without much work, using them in this manner can create addiction or dependence. All experienced users on forums will ask you your statistics first before recommending a cycle. Many will tell you to keep pushing naturally before even considering performance enhancers.
- Do not exceed recommended doses and cycle lengths. While physicians do not condone the use of anabolics except for FDA-approved medical conditions, hundreds of experts have weighed in on forums and sites dedicated to AAS education. These guidelines exist for a reason, and you should never exceed them. Don’t take more than is recommended, and keep your cycle lengths short. This will help you prevent dependency and addiction.
- Be brutally honest with yourself. Every so often, stop and gauge your body and your response. Consider the warning signs of dependency and addiction above, then ask yourself if you’ve fallen victim to any of them. If so, stop using and seek help from a licensed therapist. You may have an underlying issue that is increasing your risk of dependence.
Getting Help with Steroid Dependency and Addiction
If you or someone you know is dealing with dependency and addiction, there are plenty of ways to get help. Making an appointment with your physician or therapist is always ideal, but there are advocacy and support groups you can join, as well.
Addiction Treatment/Support Contact Information
Anabolic-androgenic steroid dependency and addiction is a fact, but it is not a fact that needs to apply to you. Be sure to keep a close eye on your behavior, and if you begin to feel that you may be dependent or addicted, stop using and consult a professional.