Steroid Abuse Affects Behavior - 7605

Case reports and small studies indicate that steroid abuse affects behavior , particularly in high doses, by increasing irritability and aggression.

Some steroid abusers report that they have committed aggressive acts, such as physical fighting, committing armed robbery, or using force to obtain something. Some individuals who abuse steroids also report that they have committed property crimes, such as stealing from a store, damaging or destroying others\ property, or breaking into a house or a building. Steroid abusers who have committed aggressive acts or property crimes generally report that they engage in these behaviors more often when they take steroids than when they are drug-free.

The Link Between Steroid Abuse and Behavior Changes

Some researchers have suggested that steroid abuse may cause an individual to commit aggressive acts and property crimes not because of steroids\' direct effects on the brain but because the abusers have been affected by extensive media attention to the link between steroids and aggression. According to this theory, the abusers are using this possible link as an excuse to commit aggressive acts and property crimes.

One way to distinguish between these two possibilities is to administer either high steroid doses or placebo for days or weeks to human volunteers and then ask the people to report how steroid abuse affected their behavior.  To date, four such studies have been conducted. In three, high steroid doses did produce greater feelings of irritability and aggression than did placebo; but in one study, the drugs did not have that effect. One possible explanation, according to researchers, is that some but not all anabolic steroids increase irritability and aggression.

Steroid Abuse and Other Behavioral Effects

Anabolic steroids have been reported also to cause other behavioral effects, including euphoria, increased energy, sexual arousal, mood swings, distractibility, forgetfulness, and confusion. In the studies in which researchers administered high steroid doses to volunteers, a minority of the volunteers developed behavioral symptoms that were so extreme as to disrupt their ability to function in their jobs or in society. In a few cases, the volunteers\' behavior presented a threat to themselves and others.

In summary, the extent to which steroid abuse affects behavior contributing to violence and behavioral change is unknown. As with the health complications of steroid abuse, the prevalence of extreme cases of violence and behavioral changes seems to be low, but it may be underreported or underrecognized.