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Anabolic steroid users are often stereotyped as bodybuilders and athletes looking for an edge on their competition. The reality of dependency and addiction is rarely discussed to the same degree that the issues surrounding other substances such as cocaine or prescription pharmaceuticals. Despite this image, steroids can be just as addictive as anything else. The neurological effects of anabolic steroids can cause users to easily form habits and find their lives spiraling out of control. Steroid users often find themselves wasting money they can't afford to spend and ending important relationships.
While anabolic steroids may not be classified as narcotics, their ability to mimic the male hormone testosterone gives them considerable abuse potential. Even more alarming, steroids can disrupt the testosterone production of abusers, making them dependent on synthetic hormones in order to maintain physical and mental function. Similar to most recreational drugs steroids are often expensive and abusers must have the financial means of acquiring them. To obtain their drug of choice, steroid users often neglect financial responsibilities or turn to crime in order to acquire steroids. This desperate need to acquire steroids even at the risk of eviction or incarceration is an obvious sign of steroid addiction.
The prevalence of steroid use can be difficult to assess. Many researchers do not include steroids in their illicit substance data sources. Among the general population it is just about 1% to 2%, but among certain demographics, the number of steroid abusers is significantly higher. Among athletes the proportion of steroid abusers may actually be 6% according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Among NFL athletes 9% have admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. As researchers begin to see the problem of steroids as being a problem of anabolic steroids as an issue of substance abuse more reliable data will become available.
Just like any other addiction, anabolic steroid dependency is not necessarily a permanent condition. As the body of a steroid abuser starts to fail to produce testosterone, treatment of the addiction will require the restoration of testosterone levels.
Steroid abuse has a profound impact on the human brain and body. Depression and other mental illnesses may become co-morbid with steroid addiction, so psychiatric medicine is often given to patients as well. Treatment of steroid abuse is usually a long-term process requiring medical attention over the course of years. Full recovery is the usual outcome if abusers seek help early.
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