Steroids: Personal and social consequences

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 3:42 pm

While AASs typically do not have any immediate effect, users often experience both negative and positive effects. People on steroids can experience personality and mood changes. Wide mood swings can occur, and users can suddenly become angry and bad-tempered. Withdrawal from steroids can be difficult. Significant depression often begins when AAS use is stopped. Dr. Roberto Olivardia, a psychologist at McLean Hospital, finds men often experience very severe depression within months of AAS stoppage. They are often emotionally numb, and operate in a zombie-like state, which often leads to a continued steroid use. Backing this observation are studies indicating between 14% and 57% of non-medical AAS users develop depression. The depression can become severe enough that suicidal thoughts occur, with the suicide risk highest during withdrawal. Other reported side effects during withdrawal include fatigue, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, decreased sex drive, headaches, and muscle aches.
Another difficulty of AAS use is the expense. Anabolic steroids are not cheap. One teen’s combination of four steroids for one “stack,” consisting of two injectables and two pills, cost $800.
As mentioned above, a serious consequence among children or teens who use AAS is a stunting of growth, and never reaching their intended height. Because small doses of steroids can stunt height, physicians seldom prescribe AASs for young people.
How the AAS user is perceived
Most people believe AAS users take them because they want to improve their physical appearance. In fact, teens surveyed named this for a primary reason, as opposed to improving sport performance. One study found AAS users tend to have more narcissistic personalities traits, defined as excessive admiration of oneself, and have less empathy. It is unclear whether these traits contribute to starting AASs or result from the use of steroids. Adolescents are less likely than they were a decade ago to disapprove of short-term steroid use or to view it as a great risk. In the 2001 Monitoring the Future survey, 60% saw it as a great risk compared to 70% in surveys in the 1990s. Likewise, the number of adolescents who disapproved of using AAS once or twice had decreased from 90% in the early 1990s to 85%.
Perhaps more than other drugs, AAS users often hide use from their peers. “For many anabolic steroid users it can be a very isolating experience because they don’t want anyone to know,” says Dr. Olivardia. “They want to project the illusion that their body was produced by diet and hard work alone.” Others will only disclose usage with close friends because of the element of shame that accompanies AAS use.

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