Bothered by boyfriend's steroid use

Originally Published: May 8, 1998 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: July 2, 2010
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Dear Alice,

My boyfriend is on steroids. He injects them through his rear end. I have seen no negative signs of this but I have read about them and I am worried that extended use of this drug will lead to serious problems, emotional and physical. I have told him about the problems steroids cause, but he doesn't think it will happen to him. What could I do to stop his use?

Dear Reader,

Anabolic steroids, also known as 'roids, rocket fuel, and juice, are drugs that mimic male hormones (e.g., testosterone) and enhance those hormones' ability to build tissue. Many athletes use steroids to gain weight and to increase their strength, power, speed, endurance, and/or aggressiveness. Steroid use has also become popular as a way to improve one's appearance. While steroids are effective at building muscle mass, decreasing body fat, improving athletic performance, and shortening recovery time after an injury, they come with a cost to one's health, in both the short- and long-run.

When a man starts taking steroids, his body begins to produce less testosterone and sperm. This can lead to an eventual shrinking of the testes. Depending on how long someone uses steroids, these effects can be reversed or they can cause permanent damage. Other side effects of steroids that can be detected early are acne, increased hair growth or loss, enhanced emotional instability (i.e., increased aggression, violence, rapid mood swings), breast enlargement (in men), decreased sex drive, increased fluid retention, damage to the immune system, and masculinization and irregular menstruation (in women). Long-term and/or high-dose use of anabolic steroids can lead to impotence, liver damage, increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.

Consider talking to your boyfriend about the more immediate side effects of steroids. He may have even noticed a few of these things happening to him already. If he can relate a current or recent problem to steroids, he might take heed of your advice.

If the discussion about the more immediate side effects of steroids doesn't work, you can try personalizing the issue. He might listen if you speak from the heart and not from a medical encyclopedia. You could say something like "I care for you so much and I want you to be around and healthy for a long time. When you use steroids, I get really scared about your lack of concern for your future health, for your own sake, and for the sake of our relationship. I want you to stop using steroids because I love you."

Reassure him that you will be supportive of his effort to stop using steroids in every respect, including how it may (or may not) affect his athletic performance and/or muscular appearance. In addition to telling him how you feel, talk with him about how he feels. Why does he use steroids? Encourage him to explore other, less toxic means to his desired ends.

Keep in mind that you may not be able to stop him from using steroids, and be prepared to deal with that situation, too. Ultimately, it is his decision; and you'll have to decide if you want to live with it. Talking to a counselor may help clarify your feelings and give you ways to confront your boyfriend in a non-threatening way. If you are at Columbia, you can call x4-2878 to schedule an appointment at Counseling and Psychological Services.