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The misuse of steroids among the masses is increasing at an alarming rate. Research suggests that up to 32 per cent of people who abuse these drugs end up becoming dependent on them, potentially leading to addiction. Steroid addiction can have devastating effects on life, from mental and physical health problems to financial difficulties.

While steroid abuse is a complicated and debilitating disease, it is fortunately treatable with the right combination of therapy, medication, and detox. Keep learning more about steroid abuse and its medical and therapeutic management for a healthy and sober life.

Mentioned below are the three most common ways in which people abuse steroids:

Stacking

Stacking includes taking several types of steroids at once and usually involves mixing injectable and oral formulations. Many steroid abusers falsely believe that stacking these drugs can increase the results; however, no scientific evidence confirms it.

Cycling

Cycling describes the process of consuming steroids for a fixed period, usually between 6 to 12 weeks, followed by complete abstinence. This period of abstinence or “off cycles” is believed to help their bodies produce steroids on their own and reduce the damage done to the internal organs.

Pyramiding

Pyramiding includes taking steroids, beginning from a low dose and gradually increasing to the maximum dose mid-cycle. During the second half of the cycle, the steroid dose is slowly tapered down until complete abstinence occurs, after which the cycle is repeated.

Unfortunately, experts have yet to verify whether any of these methods are beneficial or less harmful.

It can be particularly challenging to recognise and admit that you have a problem with steroid use. This is because some people can develop addiction even when taking steroids for a medical problem and in doses determined by a doctor. The simplest way to suspect addiction is if you catch yourself taking steroids more frequently, in higher doses, or ways differently than prescribed.

Once your steroid prescription expires and you cease its use, you may develop severe withdrawal symptoms, another indication of an underlying addiction. In addition to developing tolerance and withdrawal, other common signs of steroid use include:

  • Taking steroids longer than intended
  • Spending a lot of time searching for, using, and recovering from the effects of steroids
  • Combining steroids with other substances, such as alcohol or cocaine
  • Persistent issues with family members and friends
  • Diminished performance at school or work
  • Experiencing severe depression, especially when trying to quit steroid
  • Spending a lot of money or going out of the way to obtain and use steroids

If you or someone you love is exhibiting any of the symptoms mentioned above, it might be the time to start seeking treatment for steroid abuse. In the long run, people who keep using steroids may disrupt their body’s hormonal balance. Before this happens, it is essential to address the underlying addiction medically and professionally in an inpatient or outpatient rehab centre.

Inpatient steroid rehabs are the most effective way to help individuals heavily addicted to steroid use. It is also a good option for those with a history of anxiety, anger issues, or depression. Inpatient or residential treatment works by removing steroid addicts from their typical environment so that they can detox and reprogram their behaviour in a safe environment. Most rehabs have a rigorously-structured routine comprising individual counselling, family visits, support groups, and mealtimes.

Most inpatient programmes last somewhere between 28 to 90 days, depending on the addiction severity and treatment goals. Every client undergoes a detailed assessment before undergoing these programmes, which helps experts curate the best care plan for them. Most of these care plans begin with an inpatient detoxification process under medical supervision to ease the withdrawal symptoms and minimise complications.

During detox, medical professionals constantly monitor clients and stabilise them as steroids slowly leave their bodies. Sometimes, it involves a tapering down approach where their daily steroid dose is gradually reduced instead of stopping it cold turkey. Certain medications may be prescribed to make withdrawal more bearable. These medications include:

Synthetic hormones

An endocrinologist usually prescribes synthetic hormones to help balance the testosterone levels in the body.

Antidepressants

A psychiatrist may prescribe an antidepressant medication to combat steroid-induced depression.

Clonidine

This drug helps reduce withdrawal symptoms, such as muscle aches, anxiety, and cramping. It also helps control high blood pressure, a common complication of steroid abuse.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

Ibuprofen and aspirin are commonly provided to clients in detox for pain relief.

All clients have access to therapy as they undergo detox; however, intensive treatment only begins after stabilising them and moving to inpatient or outpatient rehab.

In addition to an in-depth detoxification process, a rehab centre also makes use of the following therapies to support recovery from steroid abuse:

Psychological therapies

These therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, can treat the underlying steroid abuse and manage all co-occurring mental health issues like depression. Therapists can help clients recognise negative self-talk to help them change their actions, behaviours, and thoughts associated with steroid use. As a part of psychotherapy, clients can also develop healthy coping mechanisms to control stress and improve self-esteem to fight the root cause of steroid addiction.

Endocrine therapies

Most people abusing steroids suffer from sexual problems related to hormonal imbalances, such as a low sex drive. To address these issues, most addiction treatment programmes offer endocrine therapy to help clients balance their hormones and prevent the consequent health problems.

Antidepressants

Antidepressant medications, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI), can help people with steroid-induced depression unresponsive to endocrine therapy. These medications also manage the depressive symptoms arising from steroid addiction and withdrawal. Sometimes, the attending doctor may prescribe additional medications to manage the symptoms of co-occurring disorders like anxiety.

Hospital-based treatment

Also known as a partial hospitalisation programme, it allows clients to follow a structured treatment plan while getting help for all medical issues related to steroid abuse. This type of care is delivered in a hospital setting and may include detox, medications, and counselling services.

Support groups

Social support is recognised as a crucial element of steroid addiction recovery. Those hoping to beat their addictive behaviours are offered a chance to participate in 12-steps support groups or group therapy for better treatment outcomes. These sessions include a group counsellor who facilitates the discussions and helps each client work through their goals and setbacks. Many clients also connect with peers through these support groups who help them avoid addiction and cope with the stress that might be fueling it.

Outpatient services

Outpatient services differ from the rest of the treatment programmes as they offer higher flexibility to clients with steroid addiction. As a part of these services, they can attend treatment during the day and come home at night. This level of care is less intensive than inpatient services and can suit those who have other obligations, such as work, school, or childcare. Many outpatient programmes include support groups and therapy sessions for comprehensive recovery.

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