Psychological Effects of AAS

Turn of the Century Physical Culture ChampionsSome authorities suggest AAS may have the potential for physical and psychological dependency (Yesalis, Wright, & Bahrke, 1989). Yet, Di Pasquale (1992b) states, "Unlike illicit drugs, which have strong psychogenic effects, anabolic steroids are not psychoactive compounds and are not physically or psychologically addictive."

Before more effective drugs were available, AAS had been used in the treatment of depression and other mental disorders. Anabolic-androgenic steroid use has been associated with self-reported changes in mood, behavior, and somatic perceptions. In addition, they have been shown to alter electroencephalogram readings similar to those seen with amphetamines and tricyclic antidepressants. Case reports of hypomania, and schizophrenic and psychotic episodes has been noted during use of AAS. Yet, no objective measures of hostility have been documented in humans (Bahrke, Barke, & Strauss, 1990).

AAS may increase arousal, increase self-confidence and pain threshold. These phenomena could lead to the expression of aggression at inappropriate times in the absence of adequate external forces, internal discipline or social coping skills (Bahrke et al. 1990).

Increased aggression and irritability have been reported by individuals using AAS, as well as by their family and friends. Although, it has been argued that the many subjectively perceived psychological and behavioral changes by AAS users are a result of expectancy, imitation or role modeling (Bahrke et al. 1990). The ability of an AAS to aromatize may play a factor in its effectiveness to promote aggression (Bahrke, Yesalis, & Wright, 1990).

Weightlifters who self-administered AAS reported significantly higher anger-hostility score on the POMS questionnaire (McNair et al., 1971) immediately after weight training than did weightlifters who did not use AAS. No differences were apparent immediately before or 30 minutes after an exercise bout (Bahrke et al. 1990).

Wright et al. (1986) found that the POMS did not confirm a difference of mood states between current AAS users and former AAS users although both groups reported changes in enthusiasm, aggression, irritability, insomnia, muscle size, and libido when using AAS.

The effects of AAS on social behavior in the cynomolgus monkey was studied. Testosterone cypionate and testosterone propionate was administered in dosages equivalent to 2 mg/kg of body weight every 2 weeks and 4 mg/kg of body weight every week, respectively, for 8 weeks. Behavior data suggested that the experimental treatment caused dominate monkeys to exhibit increases in dominate behavior and subordinate monkeys manifested increased submission. In addition, treated monkeys also demonstrated less affiliative behaviors such as play, grooming activities, and body contact. After an 8-week recovery period, dominate/submissive behaviors returned to pretest levels, although most affiliative behaviors failed to rebound in this time except for play which actually exceeded pretest levels (Rejeski, Gregg, Kaplan, & Manuck 1990).

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