New study finds anabolic steroids may be addictive
New study finds anabolic steroids may be addictiveDecember
14, 2005 Research using animal model released
at ACNP Conference A new study designed to test
whether androgenic-anabolic steroids may be addictive
found that hamsters exposed to the compounds demonstrated
addictive behavior over time. The research, conducted
by the University of Southern California's
Keck School of Medicine was released at the American
College of Neuropsychopharmacology's (ACNP)
annual conference. "Most people use anabolic
steroids to enhance their physical performance,
but they deny that steroids may be addictive,"
noted lead researcher Ruth Wood, PhD, Professor
of Cell and Neurobiology at USC. "
commonly abused drugs, the primary motivation
for steroid users is not to get high, but rather
to achieve enhanced athletic performance and increased
muscle mass. The complex motivation for steroid
use makes it difficult to determine the addictive
properties of anabolic steroids in humans.
Our goal was to create an experimental model
of addiction where athletic performance and other
reinforcing effects are irrelevant." Wood's
study is among the first to examine the potential
for anabolic steroid addiction. The research was
modeled after well-established methods used to
study highly addictive drugs, such as cocaine
and heroin. Hamsters were implanted with small
cannulas for self-administration of commonly abused
steroids into their brains.
The animals then spent
four hours per day in a chamber with access to
two delivery mechanisms. When the hamster operated
the active mechanism, he received 1 microgram
of testosterone, or one of several commonly abused
steroids: nandrolone, drostanolone, stanozolol,
or oxymetholone. The inactive mechanism produced
no response. A computer recorded the number of
times each animal used the active and inactive
Overall, the animals showed a marked preference
for testosterone, nandrolone or drostanolone,
engaging the active delivery mechanism twice as
often as the control. However, not all steroids
are rewarding: hamsters did not voluntarily inject
the weak steroids stanozolol or oxymetholone.
By isolating the animals, researchers were able
to remove the possibility that the hamster's
decision to take the drugs would be affected by
any social or behavioral factors "Cleary the
animals perceive the steroids to be rewarding,"
"This preference demonstrates the
drugs' potential for addiction." The researcher
noted that the specific pattern of abuse demonstrated
by hamsters suggests that a commonly held belief
about steroids is true: rather than an acute high
like that experienced by a cocaine or heroine
user, steroid abusers experience a chronic, long-term
sense of well-being. "In other words,"
Wood explained, "steroid users feel better
on the drugs than they do off of them."
"The findings demonstrate that anabolic steroids
do have the potential to be addictive," Wood
concluded. "Coaches and athletes need to be
aware of this potential, and add it to the list
of dangers associated with using anabolic steroids."
Wood also noted that psychiatrists and other mental
health professionals should be aware of the finding,
as men who use anabolic steroids to change their
appearance may have a serious body image disorder
(Body Dysmorphic Disorder) and present for psychiatric