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What Causes Steroid Addiction: Understanding the Factors Behind Dependency

Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT

If you or someone you know is struggling with steroid addiction, it’s essential to comprehend the underlying causes and factors contributing to this condition. As a trusted source of information, California Prime Recovery is here to shed light on the topic and provide valuable insights for individuals seeking knowledge about steroid addiction. In this blog post, we will explore the root causes of steroid addiction and delve into the factors that can contribute to its development. So let’s dive in and gain a deeper understanding of this concerning issue.

Steroid addiction is a complex issue that affects individuals from various backgrounds and walks of life. Understanding the causes of addiction is crucial for both prevention and effective treatment. In this blog post, we will explore the factors that contribute to steroid addiction, providing valuable information to those seeking to expand their knowledge on the subject.

What Are Steroids?

Steroids, in a broad sense, refer to a class of organic compounds characterized by a specific molecular structure. There are various types of steroids with different functions and properties, but when people commonly refer to “steroids” in the context of athletics, bodybuilding, or performance enhancement, they are usually referring to anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS).

Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids (AAS):

  • AAS are synthetic variations of the male sex hormone testosterone. They have both anabolic (muscle-building) and androgenic (masculinizing) properties.

What is Steroid Addiction?

Steroid addiction, also known as anabolic steroid addiction, refers to the misuse and dependence on anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS). These substances are synthetic variations of the male sex hormone testosterone. While these steroids have legitimate medical uses, such as treating hormonal imbalances and certain medical conditions, they are often misused for non-medical purposes, particularly in the context of athletic performance enhancement and bodybuilding.

Anabolic steroids can lead to physical and psychological dependence, and individuals who misuse them may exhibit behaviors consistent with addiction.

Types and Dosages

Here are some common types of anabolic steroids and their dosages when used for medical purposes:

  1. Testosterone:

    • Types: Testosterone cypionate, testosterone enanthate, testosterone propionate, etc.
    • Dosages: Dosages vary depending on the specific form of testosterone and the medical condition being treated. For example, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) doses for hypogonadism might range from 50 to 400 mg every two to four weeks.
  2. Nandrolone Decanoate (Deca-Durabolin):

    • Dosages: Medical dosages may range from 50 to 100 mg every three weeks for certain conditions.
  3. Oxandrolone (Anavar):

    • Dosages: Medical dosages can range from 2.5 to 20 mg per day, depending on the specific medical condition and individual response.
  4. Stanozolol (Winstrol):

    • Dosages: Medical dosages are typically lower than those used for performance enhancement. They may range from 2 to 10 mg per day for specific medical conditions.
  5. Oxymetholone (Anadrol):

    • Dosages: Medical dosages are generally low and may range from 1 to 5 mg per kilogram of body weight per day.
  6. Methandrostenolone (Dianabol):

    • Dosages: Medical use of Dianabol is rare, but dosages, if prescribed, would be determined by the healthcare provider based on the specific medical condition.


Here are some of the legitimate medical uses of anabolic steroids:

  1. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT):

    • Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is prescribed to individuals with hypogonadism, a condition where the body does not produce enough testosterone. HRT aims to restore testosterone levels to within the normal range.
  2. Delayed Puberty:

    • In some cases, adolescents with delayed puberty may be prescribed anabolic steroids to promote the development of secondary sexual characteristics, such as increased muscle mass and the deepening of the voice.
  3. Muscle-Wasting Conditions:

    • Anabolic steroids may be prescribed to individuals with certain medical conditions that lead to muscle wasting, such as cancer or HIV/AIDS. The goal is to promote weight gain and muscle development.
  4. Osteoporosis:

    • Some anabolic steroids, particularly certain forms of testosterone, may be used in the treatment of osteoporosis to enhance bone density.
  5. Anemia:

    • Anabolic steroids can be prescribed to individuals with certain types of anemia, such as aplastic anemia or anemia associated with chronic renal failure, to stimulate red blood cell production.

Onset and Duration

The onset and duration of effects associated with anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) can vary depending on several factors, including the specific type of steroid, the route of administration, and individual characteristics. Here are general considerations for the onset and duration of effects:

Onset of Effects:

  1. Oral Steroids:

    • Steroids that are taken orally typically have a relatively rapid onset of effects. Users may start experiencing some changes within days or weeks.
  2. Injectable Steroids:

    • Injectable steroids, administered via intramuscular injection, may have a slightly delayed onset compared to oral forms. Effects may become noticeable within a few weeks.

Duration of Effects:

  1. Short-Term Effects:

    • Some short-term effects, such as changes in mood, energy, and muscle pump, can be noticed relatively quickly, often within the first few weeks of use.
  2. Muscle Growth and Strength:

    • Significant gains in muscle mass and strength may become more apparent over a period of weeks to months, especially with consistent training.
  3. Physical Changes:

    • Physical changes, such as changes in body composition, may become more noticeable over several weeks or months.
  4. Long-Term Effects:

    • Long-term effects, including potential cardiovascular and hormonal changes, may develop over an extended period, potentially months to years, depending on the duration of steroid use.

Individual Variability:

  • The onset and duration of effects can vary among individuals. Factors such as genetics, overall health, diet, training regimen, and the presence of other substances or medications can influence the response to AAS.

Side Effects

Here are some common short-term and long-term side effects of anabolic steroid misuse:

Short-Term Side Effects:

  1. Cardiovascular Effects:

    • Increased blood pressure
    • Elevated cholesterol levels
    • Increased risk of cardiovascular events
  2. Hormonal Imbalances:

    • Suppression of natural testosterone production
    • Hormonal imbalances leading to changes in libido and sexual function
  3. Psychological Effects:

    • Mood swings
    • Aggression (roid rage)
    • Irritability
    • Anxiety
  4. Gastrointestinal Issues:

    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Abdominal pain
  5. Dermatological Effects:

    • Acne
    • Oily skin and hair
  6. Fluid Retention:

    • Edema (fluid retention), especially in the extremities
  7. Musculoskeletal Effects:

    • Increased risk of muscle strains and injuries due to rapid muscle growth
  8. Liver Strain:

    • Increased strain on the liver, which may lead to liver damage (especially with oral steroids)

Long-Term Side Effects:

  1. Cardiovascular Complications:

    • Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
    • Enlarged heart (cardiomegaly)
  2. Endocrine System Disruptions:

    • Prolonged suppression of natural testosterone production, leading to hypogonadism
    • Infertility
  3. Psychiatric Effects:

    • Depression
    • Increased risk of mood disorders
  4. Liver Damage:

    • Liver tumors
    • Hepatitis
  5. Kidney Damage:

    • Impaired kidney function
  6. Musculoskeletal Issues:

    • Tendon injuries and ruptures
    • Decreased bone density, leading to an increased risk of fractures
  7. Reproductive System Effects:

    • Men: Testicular atrophy (shrinkage)
    • Women: Virilization (development of male characteristics), menstrual irregularities
  8. Psychosocial Effects:

    • Increased risk of dependence and addiction
    • Impact on relationships and social functioning
  9. Withdrawal Symptoms:

    • Withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and loss of appetite when discontinuing use

The Appeal of Steroids

Steroids often appeal to individuals seeking quick and noticeable physical changes, such as increased muscle mass, strength, and endurance. The allure of these perceived benefits can be enticing, particularly in environments where physical appearance and performance are highly valued.

Are Steroids Addictive?

Yes, anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) can be addictive. While not everyone who uses steroids becomes addicted, some individuals may develop a dependence on these substances. The misuse of steroids for non-medical purposes, especially in higher doses and over extended periods, can lead to psychological and physiological dependence.

Psychological Dependence:

  • Individuals may become psychologically dependent on the effects of steroids, including improvements in muscle mass, strength, and physical appearance. The desire to maintain or enhance these effects can contribute to continued use.

Physiological Dependence:

  • Prolonged use of steroids can lead to physiological changes, including the suppression of natural testosterone production. This can result in hormonal imbalances and dependence on exogenous (externally administered) steroids to maintain normal physiological function.

Withdrawal Symptoms:

  • When individuals who have been using steroids attempt to discontinue or reduce their use, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal symptoms can include fatigue, depression, irritability, loss of appetite, and changes in mood.

Compulsive Use:

  • Some individuals may engage in compulsive and uncontrollable use of steroids, even in the face of negative consequences to their health, relationships, or other aspects of their lives. This behavior is a characteristic feature of addiction.

Factors Leading to Steroid Addiction

Peer Pressure and Influence

Peer pressure plays a significant role in the initiation of steroid use. Individuals, especially athletes, may feel compelled to use steroids to fit in or gain a competitive edge. The desire to conform to societal standards and achieve success can create an environment where the use of performance-enhancing substances is normalized.

Body Image and Societal Expectations

Societal expectations regarding body image can contribute to the development of steroid addiction. Both men and women may feel pressure to attain a particular physique, leading them to resort to steroids as a shortcut to their desired appearance.

Performance Enhancement

Athletes looking to enhance their performance and achieve superior results may turn to steroids. The pressure to excel in sports can drive individuals to use these substances, believing they will provide a competitive advantage.

Emotional and Psychological Factors

Emotional and psychological factors, such as low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, and underlying mental health conditions, can contribute to steroid addiction. Some individuals may use steroids as a form of self-medication, attempting to alleviate emotional pain or enhance their self-perception.

The Role of Genetics and Biology

While environmental factors play a significant role in steroid addiction, genetics and biology also contribute to an individual’s susceptibility. Certain genetic variations may make some individuals more prone to developing addictive behaviors, including steroid addiction.

Environmental Factors

Sports and Athletics Culture

The sports and athletics culture can foster an environment where steroid use is prevalent. The pressure to succeed, coupled with the presence of performance-enhancing substances, can create an atmosphere conducive to the initiation and continuation of steroid abuse.

Accessibility of Steroids

The availability and accessibility of steroids can greatly influence their misuse. The online market, black market, and illicit sources contribute to the ease of obtaining these substances, increasing the risk of addiction.

Co-occurring Disorders and Mental Health

Co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphia, often coexist with steroid addiction. Individuals may turn to steroids as a coping mechanism, exacerbating their underlying mental health issues and reinforcing addictive behaviors.

Warning Signs of Steroid Addiction

Recognizing the warning signs of steroid addiction is crucial for early intervention and support. Some common indicators include mood swings, withdrawal symptoms, increased aggression, rapid muscle growth, and persistent use despite negative consequences.

The Impact of Steroid Addiction on Health

Steroid addiction can have severe health consequences, both physical and psychological. These may include cardiovascular problems, liver damage, hormonal imbalances, infertility, mood disorders, and addiction to other substances.

Treatment Options for Steroid Addiction

Various treatment options are available for individuals struggling with steroid addiction. These can include counseling, behavioral therapies, support groups, and medical interventions. Seeking professional help is essential for the successful recovery and long-term management of addiction.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing steroid addiction begins with education and awareness. By promoting a healthy body image, emphasizing the dangers of steroid misuse, and providing alternative methods for achieving fitness goals, we can reduce the likelihood of addiction.

Support Systems and Resources

Individuals dealing with steroid addiction require a strong support system. Rehabilitation centers, support groups, online communities, and counseling services are valuable resources that offer guidance, understanding, and assistance throughout the recovery journey.

Steroid addiction is a complex issue influenced by a variety of factors. By understanding these causes, we can develop effective prevention strategies, offer support to those struggling with addiction, and promote a healthier approach to fitness and well-being. If you or someone you know is battling steroid addiction, remember that help is available, and recovery is possible.

Seeking Treatment? We Can Help!

At California Prime Recovery, as an in-network provider we work with most insurance plans, such as:

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health challenges or substance abuse, reach out to California Prime Recovery today. Our team of compassionate professionals is here to support your journey towards lasting well-being. Give us a call at 866-208-2390


Yes, steroid addiction can be treated successfully with a comprehensive approach that includes therapy, counseling, support groups, and medical interventions. The earlier the intervention, the better the chances of successful recovery.

Yes, long-term steroid addiction can have severe health consequences, including cardiovascular problems, liver damage, hormonal imbalances, infertility, mood disorders, and addiction to other substances.

If you suspect someone you know is addicted to steroids, it’s important to approach the situation with compassion and understanding. Encourage them to seek professional help and provide information about available resources and treatment options.

Steroid addiction is more prevalent among athletes due to the pressure to excel in sports and the availability of performance-enhancing substances. However, it can affect individuals from various backgrounds and professions.

Yes, steroid addiction can affect both men and women. While men are more commonly associated with steroid use, women also face pressure to attain certain body standards and may turn to steroids as a means of achieving their goals.

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