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is using steroids in recovery a relapse

What are steroids?

Steroids, specifically anabolic steroids, are synthetic substances related to the male sex hormones (e.g., testosterone). They promote the growth of skeletal muscle (anabolic effects) and the development of male sexual characteristics (androgenic effects) in both males and females. The primary medical uses of these compounds are to treat delayed puberty, some types of impotence, and wasting of the body caused by HIV infection or other diseases.

Why do people abuse anabolic steroids?

One of the main reasons people give for abusing steroids is to improve their athletic performance. Another reason people give for taking steroids is to increase their muscle size or to reduce their body fat. This group includes people suffering from the behavioral syndrome called muscle dysmorphia, which causes them to have a distorted image of their bodies. Others abuse steroids as part of a pattern of high-risk behaviors. They also engage in other risky behaviors such as drinking and driving, carrying a gun, driving a motorcycle without a helmet, and abusing other illicit drugs. For these reasons, steroid users have been shown to have an increased risk of initiating or continuing steroid abuse. Because they can be abused like most other substances, using steroids in recovery might be a no-no.

Are steroids addictive?

Some steroid abusers may become addicted to the drugs, as evidenced by their continued abuse despite negative consequences such as physical problems and negative effects on social relations. Also, steroid abusers typically spend large amounts of time and money obtaining the drugs, which is another indication that they may be addicted.

People who abuse steroids can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking steroids, such as mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, and cravings. The most dangerous of the withdrawal symptoms is depression, because it sometimes leads to suicide attempts. If left untreated, some depressive symptoms associated with anabolic steroid withdrawal have been known to persist for a year or more after the abuser stops taking the drugs. Therefore, using steroids in recovery could put your sobriety at risk. You may not consider using steroids a relapse but, it may lead you down that path with other substances.

Treatment for steroid abuse

Doctors have found that supportive therapy is sufficient in some cases. Patients are educated about what they may experience during withdrawal and are evaluated for suicidal thoughts. If symptoms are severe or prolonged, medications or hospitalization may be needed.

Some medications that have been used for treating steroid withdrawal restore the hormonal system after its disruption by steroid abuse. Other medications target specific withdrawal symptoms—for example, antidepressants to treat depression and analgesics for headaches and muscle and joint pains.

Some patients require assistance beyond pharmacological treatment of withdrawal symptoms and are treated with behavioral therapies.


Steroids in recovery: Is using Steroids a Relapse?

This is a tricky subject. It really depends on your intentions and motivation for using steroids in recovery. Consult your sponsor. Share about it in your home group. Things to consider: are you using steroids to feel better as in, looking for something external to feel better inside? Is your steroid use getting out of hand – spending excessive time and money on getting and using steroids? Are you obsessing, or experiencing compulsions to use steroids?

Food for thought: the term relapse literally means to fall or slip back into a former state, or practice; to fall back into vice, wrongdoing, or error; backslide. So, is using steroids a relapse? If you look at the behavior, itself, consider that it resembles the ways in which you thought about and used your drug(s) of choice. Using steroids in recovery seems to be at odds with sobriety. Although some people use steroids in recovery, many others consider using steroids a relapse.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for Drug Addiction please call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at






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