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What are the Effects of Drinking Alcohol While on Steroids?

It’s difficult to look around and not find someone who consumes alcohol at some rate or another. Alcohol is among the most prevalent substance on this planet, and its presence in the United States is magnified by its legal status. Movies, television, billboards commonly glamorize alcohol usage, and even in today’s times, social media. A recent study released by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism highlights that a staggering 86.4 percent of people aged 18 or older reported drinking alcohol at some point in their lives.

Even more disturbing is that 70.1 percent drank in the last year, and 56 percent in the previous month.

In the same study, they focused on individuals that binged drank and came back with shocking results. 26.9 percent reported binge drinking in the last month, and 7.0 percent engaged in heavy alcohol use in the past month.

An estimated 88,000 people die each year as a result of alcohol-related deaths, which makes it the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. An extensive portion of the population uses alcohol, and unfortunately, that means many people will mix it with other drugs.

One such drug is steroids, which begs the question, is it dangerous to drink and use steroids?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the vast majority of those who use steroids are male non-athlete weightlifters in their 20s or 30s. Their research indicates that about 22 percent of those who started using steroids were teenagers. Steroid use among females is much lower than men since fewer women have desires to be muscular and take on the masculine effects of steroids.

Many men who abuse steroids tend to have higher rates of depression, poor self-esteem, inadequate knowledge, and attitudes about health. They also have more suicide attempts and higher rates of eating disorders. These statistics offer evidence as to why alcohol is used in conjunction with steroids. Those with co-occurring disorders, such as depression, use substances to numb the pain of their symptoms.

What Are Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic, or human-made variations of the male sex hormone testosterone. Anabolic refers to muscle building, and androgenic refers to increased male sex characteristics, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  In some cases, healthcare providers will prescribe steroids to treat hormonal issues. Steroids can also treat diseases that cause muscle loss, such as AIDS or cancer.

Steroids are commonly associated with doping by elite athletes, but the usage of the substances has increased exponentially since the 1980s by male non-athlete weightlifters.

The use of steroids is commonly linked to muscle dysmorphia.

How Are Steroids Misused?

Those who misuse anabolic steroids take them orally, inject them into muscles, or apply them as a cream. The doses are said to be anywhere from 10 to 100 times higher than a typical dosage your physician would provide to treat medical conditions.

Common patterns for steroid misuse include:

  • Cycling: Taking multiple doses for an extended period, stopping, and then restarting
  • Stacking: Combining two or more steroids, and mixing oral/injectable types
  • Pyramiding: Slowly increasing your dose or the frequency of steroid misuse, reaching a peak, and gradually tapering to zero
  • Plateauing: Alternating, overlapping, or substituting other steroids to avoid building a tolerance

Why Mix Steroids and Alcohol?

While there are many theories as to why individuals may use alcohol and steroids, one is that steroid use causes a significant mood elevator in our bodies. When the feeling starts to wear off, the person using the substances mood deteriorates, creating a depressive state. The mood rebound is known as an “estrogen rebound,” as estrogen chemicals in the body respond to the increase in testosterone due to steroids. While in this depressive state, it’s common for individuals to seek out comfort from substances like alcohol.

It seems that drowning your sorrows in a drink have been considered acceptable, but it can be hazardous for someone going through an estrogen rebound. The consumption of beer and wine has been shown to change hormone levels, which enhances estrogen in the body.

Enhancing estrogen can cause the person to feel worse, which contributes to using steroids and improving their mood. Mixing steroids and alcohol can cause a cycle of dependence on both substances without the person’s knowledge.

Health Dangers of Alcohol and Steroids

Using steroids with a prescription and under your doctor’s guidance is considered safe, although legitimate use comes with risks of side effects. In that same breath, moderate drinking doesn’t post problems for most people. Mixing the two, however, can significantly increase the risks involved with the use of either substance. It places the individual’s physical and mental health at risk.

Long-term steroid use causes damage to the liver and kidneys, two organs that can be damaged by extensive alcohol usage. Combining steroids and alcohol can lead to cirrhosis or liver failure. The most significant risk someone faces when mixing the two substances is a high level of liver toxicity.

Other effects of drinking alcohol on steroids include:

  • Chest pain
  • Dehydration
  • Allergic reaction
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Psychosis
  • Mania
  • Roid rage

If you are prescribed steroids as a part of medical treatment, you must be mindful of the amount of alcohol consumed while taking them. You must abstain from alcohol altogether. If you are unable to follow through with this, you may need to seek professional help immediately to avoid long-term damage.

Sources

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Anabolic Steroids. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/anabolic-steroids

Flynn, P. M., & Brown, B. S. (2008, January). Co-occurring disorders in substance abuse treatment: Issues and prospects. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2200799/

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Who uses anabolic steroids? Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/steroids-other-appearance-performance-enhancing-drugs-apeds/who-uses-anabolic-steroids

Alcohol Facts and Statistics. (2018, August 12). Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

Moreno, M. A., & Whitehill, J. M. (2014). Influence of Social Media on Alcohol Use in Adolescents and Young Adults. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4432862/

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