Steroids are synthetic cortisone medications. What does this mean?
What Are Steroids?
Well, the term “synthetic” implies that steroids are typically man-made. These medications stimulate cortisol, which is a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory hormone that is typically produced by the adrenal glands.
Individuals may have low levels of cortisol if they have a disease such as asthma, arthritis, allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, or psoriasis. Doctors may prescribe a long-term or short-term steroid such as Prednisone or Prednisolone to increase cortisol levels in the body. Steroids are also sometimes used illegally to increase body mass.
Effects of Steroid Use
The effects of steroids usually depend on the specific drug that someone is taking. Side effects will vary widely from person to person, but there are some general symptoms and signs or steroid use to be aware of.
First, steroids are likely to suppress the immune system and cause bodily complications. They may also decrease the HPAA function (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis) of the brain. Steroids, like many other drugs, also come with a high risk of dependence and addiction.
Additional symptoms may also occur due to the changes that steroids cause in the natural balance of hormones. These symptoms are most widely recognized as withdrawal.
What Is Withdrawal?
Withdrawal is a set of symptoms that occur when someone suddenly stops using a substance. People may experience withdrawal after suddenly stopping with substances such as alcohol, prescription drugs, nicotine, and illicit drugs.
The symptoms of steroid withdrawal mimic those of many common medical problems, so it is usually difficult to diagnose this issue. If you or a loved one has recently stopped using any type of steroid, keep an eye out for the symptoms below. These symptoms may last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
What Are Symptoms of Steroid Withdrawal?
Common symptoms of steroid use include:
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Body aches
- Low blood pressure
- Fainting psychological dependence
While the symptoms above are unpleasant, they are typically not life-threatening unless they are not properly treated. Some side effects of steroid withdrawal are less common and may be more serious. If you or a loved one experiences the below symptoms after quitting any type of steroid, contact your doctor as soon as possible. These side effects are:
- Skin changes
- Joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Mental changes
- Elevated calcium levels
- Electrolyte imbalance
However, not all steroid users experience these symptoms. Withdrawal is more common among individuals who misuse a type of steroid or use it for an extended period of time.
How to Prevent Steroid Withdrawal
To prevent steroid withdrawal, never stop using a steroid medication abruptly. Instead, talk to your doctor if you plan on stopping. They will provide you with instructions to help you taper off the drug effectively and avoid unpleasant symptoms. It is important to note, however, that tapering may not completely prevent withdrawal.
If you are interested in ramping up your cortisol levels but do not want to risk symptoms or withdrawal from steroids, there are plenty of natural alternatives. You can increase your cortisol levels by doing simple things like getting enough sleep every night, avoiding stressful situations, eating healthy foods, and cutting back on caffeine and alcohol.
Seeking Help for Steroid Abuse
If you or a loved one is experiencing side effects from steroid use, talk to a doctor as soon as possible. Specialists such as primary care physicians, internal medicine specialists, and endocrinologists have the knowledge and resources to successfully treat steroid withdrawal. Detoxing at a rehabilitation facility may be necessary.
To learn more about the possible side effects of steroids and other types of medications, contact our team of substance abuse treatment specialists by calling 267.719.8689.