Are steroids addictive? Anabolic steroid abuse and teen addiction risk

Disapproval of steroid use in the media has been evident for years now. But latest data indicates that 1.5-2.5% of junior high and high school teenagers use steroids to improve athletic performance, muscle strength and physical appearance. And that’s only the teens that reported use. Can teens really get addicted to steroids? And who’s responsible for low self-esteem in a culture that always tells us that bigger is better?

minute read

Are steroids addictive?

The verdict is out, and has been for a while.  Steroids can be addictive.  Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances related to the testosterone and are illegal in the U.S. Steroids promote the growth of skeletal muscle and are so widespread in sports contests that international agencies fight against their use.  And the possible health consequences of steroid abuse (listed below) are numerous.

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So how do you know someone is addicted to steroids?

Steroid abusers spend time and (lots of) money obtaining the drugs, which is major indication of the addictive properties of steroids.  Despite physical problems or negative effects on social relations, people who use steroids will not stop using steroids.  People who abuse steroids can experience withdrawal symptoms including mood swings, fatigue, restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, reduced sex drive, steroid cravings and depression that can last for a year or more.

A year or more.

Despite the numerous drawbacks of using anabolic steroids, kids (especially adolescent boys) continue to take steroids or steroid supplements.  My theory is that boys use steroids due to low self-esteem.  And I’m not buying the line that they need to buff up to be respected.

I think that young men who experience a deep dissatisfaction with their inner lives end up relying on their appearance as the only way to feel good about themselves.  Sure, the “buff = tough” concept might be a product of the films, television shows and media images fed to our culture.  But each of us are responsible for our own actions regardless of cultural standards.  What these boys need to do is change the way they see their bodies and how they think about themselves.

How can teens find help?

Teens who chronically use anabolic steroids can talk to a parent, coach, religious leader, guidance counselor, therapist, or an adult friend about their use. A trusted adult – someone who supports- can help young men and women put their body image in perspective and give positive feedback about skills and abilities.  Teens addicted to steroids can also find treatment by using the U.S. government’s addiction treatment locator or by calling a teen crisis hotline (under social services in the yellow pages).

What do you think?  Should teens be held responsible for steroid use?  Are the pressures adolescent boys endure justification enough for use?  How can teens turn self-image around?

Possible health consequences of anabolic steroid abuse
Hormonal system in Men

  • infertility
  • breast development
  • shrinking of the testicles
  • male-pattern baldness

Hormonal system in Women

  • enlargement of the clitoris
  • excessive growth of body hair
  • male-pattern baldness

Musculoskeletal system

  • short stature (if taken by adolescents)
  • tendon rupture

Cardiovascular system

  • increases in LDL;
  • decreases in HDL
  • high blood pressure
  • heart attacks
  • enlargement of the heart’s left ventricle


  • cancer
  • peliosis hepatis
  • tumors


  • severe acne and cysts
  • oily scalp
  • jaundice
  • fluid retention


  • hepatitis

Psychiatric effects

  • rage, aggression
  • mania
  • delusions
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. Addiction Blog is a great website. I don’t think their have been any studies to prove that anabolic steroids cause addiction physiologically, I do agree that it can create a psychological addiction since most of the time the people that are on them feel stronger and more confident than ever so it is something they want to continue to feel

  2. Actually frank you and John are right, to the common and unquestioning eye steroids appear to be very hard on your health of body and mind, however these reports are very loosely tied to actual events and almost always written by the same people who passed laws against them, any reputable source will be COVERED in “possibles” and “may’s” because there is no solid concrete evidence. In fact if you watch the documentary “bigger stronger faster” they talk about the truths and misconceptions about steroids.

    And the truth is if taken in reasonable doses via injection there are almost no long-term side effects. Yes your balls will return to normal size your back acne will go away your enlarged nipples will dissipate and the roux rage never really existed in the first place (confirmed by 4 different studies). I would reccommend to anyone who is curious about facts on steroids to watch the movie “bigger stronger faster” for real studies and opinions from politicians parents users and the doctors who tie it all together. Don’t believe anything that has no reputable sources behind it.

  3. Hi Frank. Try a Google search for “ anabolic steroid abuse” You’ll find government reports for anabolic steroid abuse and negative effects.

  4. Where did all your information come from for these addictive properties. I agree with John, I know many individuals that have used these so called very addictive substances. But once they felt they had achieved their goal they stop using them and have not since with no adverse effects. So I would just like to know where all the information for this article has come from. Because I am trying to write an essay on this but can not find any studies that show any more negative effects then basic over the counter medications.

  5. Generation X and Yers who are now in positions of trust can help to teens that chronically use anabolic steroids. This is good written article and I completely agree with this.

  6. Steroid use in my community is increasing by leaps and bounds. I’m concerned with steroids’ effects especially on bodies that are still growing. Coming off of steroids isn’t easy and can take a very long time. I’ve read many sites and its amazing how long the effects can last.

  7. The ladies in my group spent an hour talking on this subject last night. I’ve even gotten two emails about it today. It’s a hot topic.

  8. I have many friends in college that take these drugs. The thought of injecting sounds quite scary to me. I am fascinated to know why they bother taking them, and they say “its because they work”. But they go on and off them, for short and long periods of time, and i have never noticed any difference in their mood atoll. I even asked about the prices of this addiction, and they always tell me “its a fraction of what your average person spends on cigarettes or alcohol”. And my friends are much healthier than me, i am jealous.

  9. Parents are concerned about the health & activities of teens, they are more careful and watch them before they gone addicted to alcohol or drugs. Setting limits and rules are crucial if you want your teens to keep you child away from the curbing problems.

  10. Parents need to be very careful of the activities of teens on regular basis. Any inappropriate changes in behavior or routine might be due to some problems issues. Effective intervention is necessary, if parents find out that their teen is using steroids or drugs. Programs like Home Intervention System are specially designed to help parents deal with a wide range of problems that teens often encounter including; anger, substance abuse, school issues, self-esteem, arguing, motivation, interacting with family, and more.

  11. Anabolic steroids, or anabolic androgenic steroids, are a class of steroid hormones related to the hormone testosterone. They increase protein synthesis within cells, which results in the buildup of cellular tissue, especially in muscles. Anabolic steroids also have androgenic and virilizing properties, including the development and maintenance of masculine characteristics such as the growth of the vocal cords and body hair.


  12. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition has categorized three stages of addiction: preoccupation/anticipation, binge/intoxication, and withdrawal/negative affect. These stages are characterized, respectively, everywhere by constant cravings and preoccupation with obtaining the substance; using more of the substance than necessary to experience the intoxicating effects; and experiencing tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, and decreased motivation for normal life activities.


  13. I agree. Teenagers have the advantage of tackling problems and qestions of faith and identity during adolescence. At the same time, it might be more difficult for a teen to idnetify and claim addictive behaviors. Denial can be strong during these years.

  14. Having a drug addiction is a very difficult condition to deal with. Drug addictions negatively affect a persons life in so many ways.

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