Steroids are used to treat a variety of ailments, from chronic illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis and Addison’s Disease to assisting athletes in their recovery from an injury. However, as with most medications, when steroids are abused, they can be dangerous and can be even more so if combined with alcohol. How the combination effects to the body can vary, but the combination of the two is not advised by medical professionals.

What Are Steroids?

Steroids mimic hormones that either the body naturally produces, though not at the levels medication offers, or that the body does not produce but which affect the brain in ways similar to naturally created steroids. There are two major types, corticosteroids and anabolic steroids, and each serves a specific purpose. Corticosteroids are used to treat ailments such as Addison’s Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and other inflammatory conditions. Anabolic steroids are used to replace the hormone testosterone. For example, a child with stunted growth could be prescribed anabolic steroids to help boost growth or reduce anemia, impotence in men, and breast cancer in women. Anabolic steroids are also the kind that athletes use to increase muscle mass and strength.

These hormones can be administered in various ways: injected, inhaled, and taken in pill form. They should not be used without the guidance of medical professionals so that side effects and complications can be caught, monitored, and controlled before they become too serious.

Common Side Effects of Steroids

The possible side effects of corticosteroids can include:

  • Acne
  • Blurred vision
  • Cataracts or glaucoma
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Easy bruising
  • High blood pressure
  • Hoarseness
  • Increased appetite, weight gain
  • Increased growth of body hair
  • Insomnia
  • Lower resistance to infection
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nervousness & restlessness
  • Stomach irritation or bleeding
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Swollen, puffy face
  • Thinning bones and fractures
  • Thin skin
  • Thrush (fungal infection in the mouth)
  • Water retention, swelling
  • Worsening of diabetes

For anabolic steroids, some of the side effects are:

  • Alterations in cholesterol and other blood lipids
  • Altered mood
  • Azoospermia (absence of sperm in semen)
  • Excess facial or body hair and deeper voice in women
  • Abnormal development of mammary glands in men
  • Hair loss
  • Heart diseases, such as heart attack and stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Infertility
  • Irritability, increased aggression, depression or suicidal tendencies (aka roid rage)
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver diseases, such as liver tumors and cysts
  • Menstrual irregularities in women
  • Risk of viral or bacterial infections due to unsterile injections
  • Severe acne, oily skin, and hair
  • Shrinking of testicles
  • Stunted growth and height in teens

It is important to note that most of these side effects can occur even when the steroids are prescribed by a physician and taken correctly.

Interactions of Alcohol and Steroids

Although there isn’t a lot of empirical evidence about the effects of mixing alcohol and corticosteroids, it has been proven that alcohol use can negate the benefits of taking steroids. And when you consider the possible side effects that can occur from taking steroids, using both at the same time, especially at problematic levels is not advised. Excessive abuse of alcohol has some of the same side effects as using steroids, so combining the two essentially doubles the chances of these side effects becoming an issue.

Some of the conditions this can induce include:

  • Liver damage
  • Mood swings
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Suicidal ideation

Alcohol Poisoning and Steroids Overdose

Alcohol addiction can lead to many medical complications and even withdrawal can cause severe issues, including death.

Some of the signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion
  • Irregular breathing
  • Low body temperature
  • Pale or blue-tinged skin
  • Passing out
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing
  • Vomiting

Corticosteroid overdose can occur when the drug isn’t used correctly or because of regular use and users can also experience random adverse reactions. If a person overdoses on steroids, the symptoms can include a rash, swelling, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and convulsions. Anabolic steroid overdose can include symptoms such as sudden aggression, high blood pressure, high heart rate, stroke, and an enlarged heart.

If you’re already abusing steroids, then alcohol abuse can lead to steroid overdose and vice versa. Since both can cause mood swings, a person abusing steroids could easily decide to self-medicate with alcohol. But instead of improving the situation, more alcohol can trigger additional mood swings and the person might reason they’ll feel better if they take additional steroids. This becomes a spiral that can lead to tragic results.


While addiction to alcohol is dangerous, withdrawal from alcohol and steroids should be monitored by a medical professional because some of the side effects can also be very dangerous if not treated at the onset.

Some of the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal include:

  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Shaky hands
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

Later, and sometimes even more serious, withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Confusion
  • Fever
  • Heavy sweating
  • Racing Heart
  • High blood pressure
  • Delirium Tremens (DTs – Hallucinations, seizures, and more)

Withdrawal can take several weeks to several months depending on the levels of steroids and alcohol in the body and how much tolerance and dependence a person has built.


Immediate treatment of an overdose of steroids or alcohol poisoning consists of flushing the toxins from the body as quickly as possible as well as treating the immediate overdose symptoms. In some cases, this can be done in the emergency room by pumping the stomach, administering activated charcoal, and providing medication to deal with any other symptoms. Then, the patient may be able to be sent home. In the event of a more severe overdose, or if the patient is interested in treatment, they will likely need to stay in the hospital for testing, treatment, observation, and detox.

Long-term treatment for steroids is usually done on an outpatient basis but still monitored by medical professionals. Alcohol treatment can also be done on an outpatient basis, though it is recommended that inpatient treatment occur because the onset of withdrawal symptoms can be sudden, severe, and if not caught early, life-threatening. Observation by medical professionals during the withdrawal period, which can last for over a week, is highly recommended.