Steroid Dependence

Typically drug addiction causes certain alteration in our body and the brain resulting in a longing for the abused drug and when the drug is discontinued, it results in withdrawal symptoms. For example, use of cocaine causes one to become dependent on the drug by means of a mechanism known as 'primary reinforcement'. When one takes this drug it invigorates certain regions of the brain that are associated with reward and he/ she experiences an intense pleasure or ecstasy.

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While use of steroids do not seem to cause this kind of instant high, several people using steroids assert that they experience pleasure or contentment when they use steroids for some period. In fact, the 'high' experienced by the users only happens when they have been using steroids for an extended period. A number of studies have also reported that use of steroids elevates the mood of patients who have been taking them for therapeutic purposes. However, scientists are yet to ascertain if steroids have the aptitude to result in the kind of physical or mental dependence that is seen in the case of people using cocaine.

We are aware of the fact that after anabolic steroids get inside the brain, they bind to specific receptor locations. One research showed that steroids have the potential to influence the neurotransmitters (chemical substance released by the nerves in brain to communicate with one another) that are also engaged in the activities induced by cocaine as well as other different stimulants on our brain.

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It has been found that the region in the brain that controls our behavior and mood is most likely to be affected by drug dependence. Majority of the researchers now concur that using steroids, particularly in elevated doses, is, in fact, likely to enhance aggressiveness. However, findings of all studies that have been published in medical literature are not consistent in this deduction. As majority of people who use steroids start taking them for their action on the body, the users also may perhaps not be completely aware of the potential mood-changing attributes of these drugs.

Experts state that few evidences regarding the fact that steroids have the potential to result in dependence do exist. Therefore, the subsequent measure that needs to be taken is to study the available evidences and describe dependence. In fact, psychiatrists are especially precise when they define what they mean by 'psychoactive substance dependence', which is a result of taking drugs that have the potential to change one's mood, thoughts or actions. In order to get to know the psychiatric yardsticks for drug dependence, people using drugs, especially steroids, need to have no less than three of the symptoms mentioned below for a minimum period of one month prior to being diagnosed of substance-dependence.

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An individual can be diagnosed of substance-dependence provided he/ she has any three of following symptoms:

  • Is taking the substance in excess of what has been prescribed or what is intended;
  • Desires to reduce or stop the use of the substance, but is not able to do it;
  • Is often intoxicated or endures withdrawal symptoms when he/ she are required to undertake a task or when they are physically unsafe;
  • Wastes enough time on activities related to the substance that is being abused;
  • Uses drug instead of work, social or leisure pursuits;
  • Shows tolerance;
  • Keeps using drugs in spite of problems or deteriorating condition due to using the drugs;
  • Experiences withdrawal symptoms; and/ or
  • Takes the substance to alleviate or put off the withdrawal symptoms.

Several studies conducted on bodybuilders using steroids have revealed that as much as 25% to over 50% show a mind-set and behaviour that connect with these decisive factors and indicate that an individual is suffering from drug dependence.

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Irrespective of one's opinion about the possibility of becoming dependent on steroids, scientific debate on this subject does not have any meaning whatsoever to an individual using steroids and finding it difficult to stop behaving in a manner that he/ she may be well aware that it is harming them. In such a situation, the user needs to be given appropriate help and support to overcome his/ her steroid addiction. In case we really think that steroid use results in dependence, we ought to comprehend the means that results in such dependence with a view to put off the addiction and also treat the condition.

Psychological effects

In fact, scientists attached such great importance to the severe physical health results of using anabolic steroids that till recently they believed that the behavioural and psychological consequences of using anabolic steroids may be somewhat just as significant.

During the period between the later part of the 1930s and the middle of the 1980s, the use of anabolic steroids were not only popular, but apparently also successful for treating disorders related to the mind and mood, which includes depression as well as psychosis. The psychological or mental consequences of using anabolic steroids in remedial doses in clinical trials comprise mood elevation, an enhancement in mental alertness, augmented memory as well as concentration and diminishing sensations of fatigue.

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Additional studies involving testosterone have demonstrated that this male sex hormone has a notable outcome on the development as well as the functioning of our nervous system. It seems that the consequences of testosterone or anabolic steroids on the functioning of our brain lead to an increase in the levels of norepinephrine in our brain. It has also been found that anabolic steroids bring about modifications in the actions of our brain something akin to what is witnessed in the case of using tricyclic antidepressants and amphetamines.

The association between the levels of testosterone and aggressive and dominant behaviour in different animal species is a well known fact. It is natural that while we progress in the evolutionary scale, our social learning plays a notably vital part in our behaviour. While the association between the testosterone levels and belligerence is somewhat distinct in rats and mice, the relation is rather less regular in the case of apes, monkeys, and particularly men. However, some studies have examined the testosterone levels that naturally occur in men and several, but not necessarily all of them, have revealed any relation between augmented levels of testosterone and the enhancement in one-sidedly apparent belligerent behaviour and the detected aggressive activities.

While majority of the scientists seemingly concur that anabolic steroids, particularly when used in elevated doses, appear to augment aggressiveness, the fact is that all researches undertaken on this subject have not arrived at this deduction. While three potential, blind-fold studies that have reported belligerent or unfavourable explicit behaviour owing to using steroids, two clinical trials performed recently, wherein the researchers administered steroids in somewhat ample doses to volunteers for a period of more than a week, did not find any extensive obvious psychological or sexual results.

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