Mixing Steroids and Opioids
Updated June 2021
Although drinking alcohol while on steroids is a generally understood danger, the effect of mixing opioids and steroids is less well known. The mixture of performance-enhancing drugs and painkillers has come to represent a significant public health threat, not only for professional athletes but for teens and young adults as a whole. Unfortunately, our drug and alcohol rehab in Palm Beach has seen this threat first-hand and wants to educate you on the dangers of mixing opioids and steroids.
Dangers of Steroids
Anabolic steroids, also known as performance-enhancing drugs, are used to increase muscle mass and strength. Steroids work as synthetic modifications of a hormone that’s naturally produced by the body called testosterone. This hormone contributes to growth in muscle mass, as well as male traits like facial hair and a deep voice. Not only can these drugs contribute to physical performance and appearance, but they can also reduce muscle damage that occurs during a difficult workout, allowing athletes to recover quicker. However, this doesn’t mean these drugs are safe. While anabolic steroids have a medical purpose, many athletes and other users take these drugs without a prescription solely to enhance their performance.
There have been persistent reports of amateur and famous athletes that used performance-enhancing drugs during their careers, a habit known as “doping.” However, the consequences of doping in sports are now affecting not only athletes but anyone in a job that heavily relies on displaying peak physical performance on the field. While anabolic steroids and other drugs can contribute to performance and improve appearance for some individuals, they are dangerous and can cause long-lasting, sometimes irreversible, health problems.
Some risks of using performance-enhancing drugs include:
- Early heart attacks
- Breast growth (in men)
- Sexual dysfunction
- High blood pressure
- Fat build up in the blood
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Mood swings
- Liver tumors
- Kidney failure
- Serious psychiatric illnesses
In addition, people who inject steroids increase their risk of developing problems like:
- Hepatitis B and C
- Skin infections
- Endocarditis (an infection of the heart)
Anabolic steroids have also been linked to dramatic changes in behavior. Case studies have reported increased irritability and aggression among abusers, especially at higher dosages. Some of the abusers have engaged in aggressive physical acts like vandalism, assault, burglary, and armed robbery. But even with all of these dangers, can you get addicted to steroids? Yes, a steroid use disorder has been reported in users before. Steroid addiction is defined as the continued use of steroids despite the consequences. These individuals may also avoid or neglect other aspects of their lives for fear of missing a workout, violating their dietary restrictions, or being prevented from using steroids.
Physical Risks of Mixing Steroids and Opioids
The rigors of physical activity often lead to chronic pain, which many individuals elect to treat with prescription opioid painkillers. Injuries are common in the sports world, and many professional athletes turn to both opioids and steroids in an attempt to recuperate faster. However, not all steroids are performance-enhancing, and non-athletes can also mix these drugs, either on purpose or accidentally. Steroid medicines, also called corticosteroids, are synthetic versions of natural steroids. Oral steroid medicines are used to treat conditions like inflammatory bowel diseases, autoimmune diseases, joint and muscle diseases, and more.
Steroid and opioid abuse can occur simultaneously in both athletes seeking a quicker route to recovery and people who are either unaware of the side effects or are attempting to get high. When people take substances like prednisone and oxycodone or Vicodin in combination with prednisone without knowing the consequences, the results can be dangerous.
Some common effects of mixing opioids and steroids include:
- Increased heart rate
- Further chronic pain
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Mood swings and chronic depression
- Erratic and violent behavior
The tragic irony is that many who take steroids to improve their physical performance often wind up needing some level of pain medication to manage the chronic pain and physical trauma that their bodies have sustained. Although they may desperately want to combine steroids and opioids for short-term relief, the long-term problems are not worth it.
Quality Treatment for Combined Steroids and Opioid Abuse
At Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, we are well-equipped to treat simultaneous abuse of opioids and steroids. The process starts with a medical detox treatment in Florida to arrest any immediate withdrawal symptoms and prevent further complications. After patients complete a thorough detox, they are provided with a customized addiction treatment plan that will help them explore the underlying issues of their addiction that are related to dependence, confidence, self-awareness, and pressure to perform.
The use of steroids may lead to strokes, heart attacks, violent behavior, and irritability. When mixed with a painkiller (or opioid), the effects of each drug are exacerbated, potentially leading to several health conditions. Because steroid abuse to improve physical ability often leads to opioid abuse to help manage chronic pain, many people fall victim to this vicious cycle.