Anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) withdrawal is established to be an important, though poorly known medical problem, because of AAS potency to cause physical and psychological dependence. Thus discontinuation of high-dose, long-term anabolic steroid use, apart from endocrine dysfunction (hypogonadotropic hypogonadism), may lead to development of withdrawal symptoms. They include mood disorders (with suicidal depression as the most life-threatening complication), insomnia, anorexia, decreased libido, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, and desire to take more steroids. The withdrawal from anabolic steroids usually requires treatment. Clinical management, as with other drugs of abuse, consists of supportive therapy and pharmacotherapy. The goals of treatment are to restore endocrine (hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal, HPG) function and to alleviate withdrawal symptoms. The endocrine medications that are targeted specifically to ameliorate HPG function include testosterone esters, human chorionic gonadotropin, synthetic analogues of gonadotropin-releasing hormone and antiestrogens. They are indicated in the presence of persistent clinical symptoms or/and laboratory evidence of HPG dysfunction. Other medications, that are targeted to provide symptomatic relief include antidepressants (especially serotonin selective re-uptake inhibitors), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and clonidine. Notwithstanding, it should be remembered that many of the above mentioned drugs have their own potential for abuse or side-effects, so their use must be carefully weighted and optimal treatment strategies for AAS withdrawal must await further clinical research.
Transdermal patches (adhesive patches placed on the skin) may also be used to deliver a steady dose through the skin and into the bloodstream. Testosterone-containing creams and gels that are applied daily to the skin are also available, but absorption is inefficient (roughly 10%, varying between individuals) and these treatments tend to be more expensive. Individuals who are especially physically active and/or bathe often may not be good candidates, since the medication can be washed off and may take up to six hours to be fully absorbed. There is also the risk that an intimate partner or child may come in contact with the application site and inadvertently dose himself or herself; children and women are highly sensitive to testosterone and can suffer unintended masculinization and health effects, even from small doses. Injection is the most common method used by individuals administering AAS for non-medical purposes.