Steroid Withdrawal: Symptoms, Timeline & Prognosis

It is not uncommon for those who are entering the bodybuilding lifestyle to seek other ways to increase testosterone levels and to build muscle.

Steroids have always been the number one choice to gain muscle quickly, though that does not mean it is legal.

When it comes to using steroids long term, it can have a huge impact on a person’s health such as artery damage, high blood pressure, male pattern baldness in men, blood clots, and decreased breast size in women, amongst so much more.

Steroid Withdrawal - Symptoms, Timeline & Prognosis

When steroids are stopped suddenly or the dosage is decreased in a rapid fashion, withdrawal symptoms are highly likely.

Because of this, it is usually best to receive medical attention when quitting steroids to help manage any withdrawal symptoms that may arise - but this is only normally the case if you have heavily abused steroids.

Let us take a look at what the symptoms of withdrawal are, how long it may take, and what the outlook is for those who plan to relieve themselves of steroid use.

What Do Steroids Do?

Bodybuilders, along with athletes and other sport trainers, might choose to use anabolic steroids to enhance their overall performance.

The steroids imitate the natural male sex hormone testosterone to increase muscle mass. It does this by stimulating tissue growth within the muscles whilst decreasing fat levels.

Even though this might sound desirable for someone who may be starting out in the bodybuilding industry, steroids come with many unwanted side effects, especially if used in the long term.

Why Steroid Withdrawal Happens

Because steroids imitate the male sex hormone, for someone who is taking them on a long term basis, their body becomes used to having an increased level of testosterone.

This is obviously an unnatural increase within the body, so once it is taken away, a person may find it difficult to produce testosterone on their own.

Because of the lower levels of natural testosterone, a person will find that their body copes with this by having withdrawal symptoms. This usually lasts until a person can produce regular and normal levels of testosterone.

Medical Help For Heavy Steroid Users

If a person feels like they have heavily relied on high levels of steroids for a long period of time, they may find it difficult to adjust to life without needing them. When this is the case, medical intervention is very helpful to successfully quitting steroid use.

Whilst it is possible to manage quitting steroids on your own, if you have taken a high dose then you may benefit from reducing it over time with support from a medical professional.

Not only that, other medications may be prescribed to help deal with withdrawal side effects such as depression or associated pain. This strategy is implemented to help a person reach their normal hormone balance in a managed manner rather than too quickly.

Whilst you cannot avoid withdrawal symptoms, this method can help to lessen the impact of them.

Symptoms Of Withdrawal

The actual withdrawal symptoms of steroids are not dangerous in themselves, but it can bring about depression and thoughts of suicide. Due to this, it is safer to be monitored, either professionally or by a support group, than go it alone.

Depression is also another reason why gradually coming off steroids is much better than stopping them altogether in one go, as a person is more likely to feel suicidal when their body has been stripped of the substance it has been used to.

Here is a list of some of the withdrawal symptoms one might experience:

  • Craving drugs
  • Aching of muscles
  • Fatigue and general tiredness
  • Pain of the joints
  • A decrease in sex drive
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia and trouble sleeping
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Feeling weak
  • Low blood pressure
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain the abdominal region

Positives Of Quitting Steroids

Whilst the withdrawal symptoms may not look appetizing when it comes to quitting steroids, the long term effects of using them is much worse. Some of these include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke
  • Artery damage
  • Hepatitis
  • Tumors
  • Decreased sperm production
  • Enlarged breasts in men
  • Male-pattern baldness in men and women
  • Shrinking of testicles
  • Voice becoming deeper in women
  • Decreased breast size in women
  • Excessive hair growth in women
  • Jaundice
  • Abscesses where it is injected
  • Acne

The Long Term Effects Of Steroids

Steroid Withdrawal - Symptoms, Timeline & Prognosis2

Whilst most of the effects from steroids usually reverse once the user has stopped taking them, some can be long term.

However, there is still only a limited amount of research done. Even so, here are the potential long term effects from taking steroids:

  • Liver dysfunction, cancer and/or tumors.
  • Changes in the cardiovascular system.
  • Cancer of the prostate in men.
  • HIV due to sharing of needles.
  • Hepatitis.
  • Infections of the skin.

Timeline Of Withdrawal

When it comes to withdrawing from steroids, everyone will be different, but here is a brief timeline of what to expect if they are stopped completely:

  • 1-5 days: When steroids are first withdrawn, symptoms may not begin straight away. Within the first 5 days a person may find that they start to feel irritable and experience headaches and not feeling well.
  • 5-7 days: During that first week, the symptoms may worsen and bring with it depression and anxiety. Also there may be a big decrease in energy levels.
  • 8-10 days: Once the second week has come around, withdrawal symptoms are usually at their peak. During this time a person may be fully depressed, unable to sleep and have lost weight.
  • End of week 2: By this time the height of the withdrawal symptoms should be much weaker and easier to manage. Whilst a person will still be experiencing symptoms, they will be nothing like the previous few days. Eventually they will disappear altogether.

Factors Of Withdrawal Timeline

Whilst the above timeline is just a vague example of how long withdrawal will take, there are many factors that can differ a person’s experience to someone else’s when it comes to the length of withdrawal and how severe it may be. These are:

  • Body weight and gender - along with a person’s mental health and their medical history.
  • Frequency - how often the steroid was used.
  • Length - how long the steroid was used for.
  • Administration - how they received the steroid into the body.
  • Dosage - what percentage of steroid was taken each time.
  • Other drugs taken - was it combined with alcohol or other drugs?

How To Treat Steroid Withdrawal Symptoms

As stated previously, you can choose to withdraw from steroids without medical intervention, but it is always useful to take advantage of the help that is available to you.

Steroids can become addictive, especially when used for athletic performance, so receiving extra help can promote you to kick the habit altogether, especially when withdrawal symptoms are at their worst.

There are many rehab centers that can provide the help you need whilst your body rebalances its hormones and brain receptors. Not only do they put together a withdrawal plan, but they can work on underlying issues such as body image.

Final Words

Quitting steroids does not have to be a difficult task. Whilst it is recommended to withdraw slowly to stop the temptation of relapsing, going ‘cold turkey’ can be done effectively, though it is best to find the right support whilst doing so.

There are many, many awful reasons not to take anabolic steroids to enhance performance. Whilst the withdrawal symptoms may seem difficult, it is highly likely that you will experience worse things (and for the long term) whilst taking steroids.

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