Steroid Withdrawal: Symptoms,Treatment And More

Medically reviewed by Maria Sarino, MD FACT CHECKED

Steroid withdrawal is the term used to describe the symptoms of adrenal insufficiency that appear when glucocorticoids are abruptly lowered or stopped or the recurrence of the condition being treated following the removal of glucocorticoid medication.

A less common type of steroid withdrawal is the one that manifests when individuals have normal cortisol levels but a symptom complex resembling adrenal insufficiency.

If they abruptly quit using the substance or drastically lower their dosage, those who are addicted to anabolic steroids may experience withdrawal symptoms.

This occurs as a result of the hormonal imbalance brought on by excessive steroid use. The male sex hormone testosterone is mimicked by steroids. Steroid users’ bodies adjust to having more testosterone in their systems.

When testosterone levels rise unnaturally as a result of steroid use, the body’s capacity to manufacture testosterone on its own decreases.

Low levels of natural testosterone in the body are the cause of the withdrawal symptoms from drugs. These signs and symptoms last until the body could resume producing testosterone normally.

Today, we will be looking at all about steroid withdrawal.

all about steroid Withdrawal

In most cases, withdrawal symptoms start to show up after abruptly ceasing the usage of steroids after prolonged use.

Glucocorticoids and anabolic steroids in transdermal, topical, and injectable formulations are among these drugs. When someone stops taking steroids, they may experience the following symptoms and signs:

  • Fatigue
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Menstrual changes

Skin changes, muscular pain, joint discomfort, fever, calcium increases, or mental disturbances may be noticed less frequently. There could be electrolyte abnormalities and dehydration.

Dilation of the intestines could result from a decrease in gastrointestinal contractions. The signs of steroid withdrawal might be mistaken for many different illnesses.

The most common symptoms of withdrawal from anabolic steroids include:

  • Mood swings
  • Serious depression
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and excessive sleeping
  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Cravings for steroids
  • Decreased sex drive

In order to treat their withdrawal symptoms, a patient’s doctor may administer very few doses of anti-manic or antipsychotic medications if they exhibit manic or psychotic symptoms during the detox procedure.

Long-term medications are not required because psychosis caused by steroid usage normally goes away in two weeks at most.

Depression is the most difficult withdrawal symptom after anabolic steroids, thus if it still exists after detox, an SSRI antidepressant may be used to treat it.

If long-term physical changes are unpleasant, such as sex drive or infertility disorders, hormone therapy may be used to treat them.

The most common symptoms of corticosteroid withdrawal include:

  • Muscle aches
  • Physical weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Intense fatigue
  • Appetite and weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

Prednisone or other corticosteroids may be taken non-medically by those who struggle with prescription drug misuse.

Although these medications are not thought to be addictive, they do influence the amount of cortisol the brain has access to, which eventually causes the brain to manufacture less cortisol on its own.

Corticosteroid dependence may result from this, which may result in withdrawal symptoms. After stopping prednisone and other corticosteroids, acute withdrawal symptoms usually subside within a week.

However, a doctor will likely taper the medication to avoid serious withdrawal or a protracted withdrawal syndrome.

Duration Of Steroid Withdrawal

Always follow your doctor’s advice on how to discontinue taking any medication in the safest possible way. To prevent withdrawal symptoms, it is advised that you taper off the withdrawal gradually.

The ideal method to do this is under the supervision of a medical practitioner, whether that be your doctor or a facility for drug detoxification.

Cortisol is one of the vital substances that our systems should produce, but sadly, not everyone produces enough of it on their own.

Fortunately, a steroid known as prednisone could help with the functions that cortisol is supposed to perform, such as reducing swelling and inflammation.

Prednisone is useful for both acute and chronic illnesses since it works so swiftly. Unfortunately, after a few weeks of prolonged prednisone use, your body will start producing less cortisol.

Your adrenal glands could catch up and resume producing normal amounts of cortisol if you could carefully taper off the prednisone. It could take a few weeks or months for you to reach a safe level.

People who stop using steroids may be at risk for developing significant depression in the initial few months after ceasing, and depression may last for a year or longer.

Hypogonadism, a disorder in which the ovaries or testes do not function properly, could also affect users. Decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and sadness are symptoms. Although it could go away in a few weeks, hypogonadism could continue for a year or more.

Consult an addiction specialist or a health professional if you are suffering from steroid withdrawal symptoms. With the right care and assistance, it is possible to speed up the withdrawal process and sustain steroid abstinence.

Treatment For Steroid Withdrawal

Partial hospitalization programs, inpatient treatment centers, detox centers, and outpatient treatment centers are a few of the therapy options available for steroid withdrawal.

The person’s needs and the seriousness of the addiction determine the appropriate method of treatment.

A detox facility gives clients access to medical professionals who could write prescriptions for drugs to treat withdrawal symptoms while lowering daily stressors.

Professionals may keep an eye on people going through steroid withdrawal and make sure that help is always available.

After detox, addiction specialists strongly advise receiving additional treatment since it could greatly increase a person’s chances of maintaining sobriety.

Additionally, depression and body dysmorphic disorder must also be treated in order to prevent recurrence because steroid addiction frequently masks these conditions.

Other ways for steroid withdrawal are treated by stopping the usage of the drugs that cause it and controlling the withdrawal symptoms. Options for specific treatments include:

  1. Discontinuing Using Topical Steroid Medicines

    The initial step in treating topical steroid withdrawal in the majority of cases is to stop using topical steroid medicines.

    Due to worries that abruptly quitting the topical steroid may increase the withdrawal symptoms, some doctors may advise reducing the topical steroid gradually.

    However, given that there is no difference between discontinuing suddenly and doing so gradually, some doctors would advise stopping the topical steroid abruptly if withdrawal symptoms start to appear.

  2. Antibiotics

    A course of antibiotic drugs, such as tetracycline, doxycycline, or erythromycin may be helpful for persons with a steroid withdrawal syndrome.

    These antibiotics also have anti-inflammatory properties, which makes them potentially useful for symptom control.

    People with the papulopustular kind of rash are more frequently treated with antibiotic medicines.

  3. Short-Term Use Of Oral Steroid

    Some doctors could advise patients experiencing topical steroid withdrawal to finish a brief course of oral steroid medicines, including prednisolone.

    Topical steroid withdrawal is only caused by using topical steroids excessively, thus taking oral steroids would not make the symptoms worse and might even benefit by lowering inflammation all throughout the body.


The potential hazards of stopping steroids should be discussed with your doctor. While stopping steroid medication usually resolves adrenal and HPA axis suppression, care must be taken.

Additionally, when needed, a supportive doctor could guide their patient through anxiety therapy, comfort measures, pain treatment, sleep aids, infection control, and other necessary medical interventions.

When the adrenal glands are significantly depressed, stopping steroids runs the danger of an adrenal crisis, which is potentially fatal.

Before stopping steroids, your doctor could order tests to check your cortisol levels and adrenal function. He or she could also keep an eye on you as you withdraw.

You could learn more about steroid withdrawal symptoms by reading pertinent studies from peer-reviewed, professional journals. Additional assistance might be obtained by finding a support group or by joining internet communities.

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