Withdrawal Symptoms

A drug dependency that is isolated to criteria #1 to #5 would be described as psychological. The meeting of criteria #6 or #7 indicates the dependency is also a physical one. The physical benefits of anabolic/androgenic steroids complicate the matter of drug dependency a great deal. Unlike narcotics, the main motivator behind the use of steroids is their positive effect on muscle and performance. With this in mind, steroid addiction could actually be a misdiagnosis for muscle dysmorphia in many cases. This is a psychological disorder characterized by persistent feelings of physical inadequacy in spite of extreme muscular development. Steroid abuse (often extreme) is highly common in muscle dysmorphics, along with compulsive resistance training. But steroid abuse is regarded as a symptom of this disorder, not a cause. In a similar sense, the physique-, strength-, and performance-improving qualities of
anabolic/androgenic steroids could be driving much or all of the abuse. An analogy would be the so-called addiction to chocolate. Some individuals develop tangible psychological issues surrounding the consumption of chocolate, with uncontrolled binging and negative social and health consequences. But we do not regard chocolate itself as a substance that causes dependency.

There is some evidence that the reinforcing qualities of steroid use go beyond an attraction to their physical benefits. Lab animals such as mice and hamsters will repeatedly self-administer testosterone and other anabolic/androgenic steroids for example, an effect that cannot be caused by a perception of physical change. Testosterone is also known to interact with the mesolimbic dopamine system, which is common with other drugs of abuse. Studies additionally suggest that anabolic/androgenic steroids influence dopamine transporter density and increase sensitivity of the brain reward system. Steroids are known to influence psychology, and abusers commonly report an increased sense of wellness, vitality, and confidence when taking AAS drugs. Some speculate this is due in part to an inherent psychoactive effect. Further research is needed to determine if anabolic/androgenic steroids are actually mild psychoactive drugs.

Anabolic/androgenic steroids are not drugs of marked intoxication, which makes them very different from other drugs and abuse or dependency. This makes diagnosing a drug dependency difficult. By definition, drug dependency is related to the abuse of a psychoactive substance, and it is unknown if AAS drugs can accurately be classified as psychoactive substances. At the present time, most experts do not regard anabolic/androgenic steroids as drugs of true physical dependency. It is difficult to correlate the post-cycle hormone imbalance with traditional withdrawal symptoms,and tolerance is really a function of metabolic limits on muscle growth, not necessarily a diminishing biological effect. Individuals remain warned, however, that steroid abuse is commonly associated with the signs of psychological dependency. Further research is needed to evaluate the biological and psychological nature of steroid abuse.


Wlliam Llewellyn (2011) - Anabolics

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