Alcohol and steroids can be a dangerous combination affecting major systems of the body such as the liver, kidneys, heart, immune system, gastrointestinal system and can even cause mental health symptoms.
While it’s difficult to determine the true prevalence of steroid and alcohol use as a combination, several studies can help explain the individual risks, and thus the potential danger of this combination.
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Alcohol Facts and Statistics
The use of alcohol is common among adults, and unfortunately, among youth as well. The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that among adults aged 18 and older, 86.4% had reported drinking alcohol at some point in their life.
While alcohol use can be associated with celebrations, it can quickly become an addiction and a danger to the individual and other people. An estimated 88,000 people in America die from alcohol-related causes each year. According to the same 2015 NSDUH, a staggering 15.1 million adults and 623,000 children ages 12-17 struggle with alcohol use disorder.
Steroid Facts and Statistics
Steroids themselves are not bad or harmful, usually. Many types of steroids, such as corticosteroids, are used to treat certain health conditions that cause inflammation such as asthma, hay fever, lupus, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
Another type of steroid, anabolic steroids, are prescription-only steroids that mimic the hormone testosterone and are used to increase muscle mass and athletic performance. It is estimated that 3,000,000 people use anabolic steroids in America each year.
The non-medical use of anabolic steroids can contain quantities 10-100 times higher than normal dosage amounts. Most professional sports organizations ban the use of anabolic steroids. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that the majority of people who use anabolic steroids are male non-athlete weightlifters. One survey showed the use of anabolic steroids in 8th-12th graders as many people who use these steroids begin using them during their teenage years.
Why Do Some People Mix Alcohol and Steroids?
Many people unintentionally mix alcohol and steroids. They may regularly take a prescribed steroid medication for a health problem. Perhaps they get a drink after work or during another social occasion without giving a second thought to possible side effects.
However, whether intentional or accidental, regularly consuming alcohol while taking steroid medications can increase the risk for potential side effects. It is recommended to consult with a physician before consuming alcohol if someone is taking steroid medications.
People who take anabolic steroids may suffer from body dysmorphic disorder and have a flawed view of their body and size, which potentiates the continued use of steroids.
While the misuse of steroids does not create a high as seen in other drugs, stopping the use of large doses does create withdrawal symptoms such as:
- Mood disorders (including suicidal depression)
- Decreased libido
- Joint and muscle pain
- Increased desire to keep taking steroids
If someone begins combining alcohol and steroids as a way to stave off the negative emotional effects of the steroids, they may be doing more harm than good. Some of the side effects of using steroids by themselves can include aggressive mood swings, volatility, emotional instability, paranoia, and hallucinations. These symptoms can all be exacerbated when mixing alcohol and steroids.
Potential Side Effects
The long-term use of steroids and alcohol can amplify the risk for certain side effects and health problems. On their own, both anabolic steroid and alcohol use can cause serious health complications.
Steroid Side Effects
Common anabolic steroid side effects include:
- Fluid retention
- Pain when urinating
- Hair loss or growth
- Changes in libido
- Cardiovascular problems
- Liver damage
- Tendon rupture
- Stunted growth in children
- For men: shrinking testicles, breast growth, and sterility
- For women: deeper voice, breast shrinkage and changes to a menstrual cycle
- Mood disorders
- Psychological dependence and addiction
Possible Combined Side Effects
Mixing alcohol and steroids raises a person’s risk of:
- Liver damage
- Cardiovascular problems
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Psychological disorders (depression and suicidal thoughts)
Treatment for Alcohol and Steroid Abuse
Stopping the use of anabolic steroids is a first step to preventing many of the unwanted and sometimes permanent side effects of these substances. If the use of alcohol is seen in combination with steroid use, however, it is recommended to enroll in treatment at an inpatient center that is skilled in dealing with negative withdrawal symptoms. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be life-threatening if left untreated.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction and steroid abuse, The Recovery Village can help. Comprehensive treatment is available for these disorders from one of our facilities located throughout the country. Call to speak with one of our representatives to learn more about our treatment programs.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” August 2018. Accessed April 23, 2019.
NHS. “Steroids.” February 3, 2017. Accessed April 23, 2019.
El Osta, R., Almont, T., Diligent, C., Hubert, N., Eschwege, P., Hubert, J. “Anabolic steroids abuse and male infertility.” Basic and Clinical Andrology, February 6, 2016. Accessed April 23, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Anabolic Steroids.” August 2018. Accessed April 23, 2019.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Steroid and Other Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs).” February 2018. Accessed April 23, 2019.
NHS. “Anabolic Steroid Misuse.” August 30, 2018. Accessed April 23, 2019.
Medical News Today. “Anabolic Steroids: What You Should Know.” June 27, 2018. Accessed April 23, 2019.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.