A steroid is any compound that contains a specific arrangement of four carbon rings. This includes a large number of chemicals such as cholesterol, sex hormones, and anti-inflammatory drugs. There are two main types of steroids:
- Corticosteroids, which are similar to hormones and affect the body's inflammation and immune response.
- Anabolic steroids, which are man-made chemicals that mimic male sex hormones.
Anabolic steroids are a class of steroids that include testosterone. Steroids have many medical uses, but certain types are used to enhance athletic performance. Steroids have a significant potential for abuse, and heavy users may require recovery in an inpatient setting.
"Steroids have a significant potential for abuse, and heavy users may require recovery in an inpatient setting."
What Are Steroids Used For?
Steroids are used for numerous reasons. Non-anabolic steroids have many different medical uses:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Skin conditions (like eczema and rashes)
- Some forms of cancer
Anabolic steroids, on the other hand, can increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance when combined with a proper diet and exercise program, but the use of steroids is prohibited in professional sports as well as amateur events. Anabolic steroids are sometimes used to treat hormone problems in men, delayed puberty, and disease-related muscle loss.
Adverse Effects of Steroid Use
Steroids are powerful chemicals, and prolonged use of them may lead to harmful side effects. Corticosteroids, while generally less risky than anabolic steroids, may weaken bones and cause a person to develop cataracts.
Anabolic steroids may cause many adverse effects, depending on the dosage and period of use. An increase in blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems that lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack are the most common side effects, especially when the user already has hypertension.
Other side effects include:
- In men: breast growth and testicle shrinking
- In women: voice deepening and facial hair
- Heart problems
- Liver disease/cancer
- Kidney damage
- Aggressive behavior
Corticosteroids have a very low risk of dependence, but anabolic steroids can be reinforcing and lead to addiction. Only a small percentage of anabolic steroid users seem to experience dependence or withdrawal effects. Animal studies have shown that animals will self-administer these drugs just as they do other addictive substances.
Anabolic steroid abuse can also lead to withdrawal effects when use is stopped. Withdrawal can include mood swings, depression, exhaustion, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, and reduced sex drive.
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The first phase of steroids addiction treatment is detoxification, which generally involves tapering off these drugs gradually. An endocrinologist should provide medical management over this process in order to minimize the effects of changing hormone levels in the body.