Review Article

CNS Drugs

, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 571-595

First online:

Behavioural Manifestations of Anabolic Steroid Use

  • Adam J. TrentonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, University of Rochester School of Medicine
  • , Glenn W. CurrierAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Emergency Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine Email author 

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The use of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) for gains in strength and muscle mass is relatively common among certain subpopulations, including athletes, bodybuilders, adolescents and young adults.

Adverse physical effects associated with steroid abuse are well documented, but more recently, increased attention has been given to the adverse psychiatric effects of these compounds. Steroids may be used in oral, 17α-alkylated, or intramuscular, 17β-esterified, preparations. Commonly, steroid users employ these agents at levels 10- to 100-fold in excess of therapeutic doses and use multiple steroids simultaneously, a practice known as ‘stacking’. Significant psychiatric symptoms including aggression and violence, mania, and less frequently psychosis and suicide have been associated with steroid abuse. Long-term steroid abusers may develop symptoms of dependence and withdrawal on discontinuation of AAS.

Treatment of AAS abusers should address both acute physical and behavioural symptoms as well as long-term abstinence and recovery. To date, limited information is available regarding specific pharmacological treatments for individuals recovering from steroid abuse. This paper reviews the published literature concerning the recognition and treatment of behavioural manifestations of AAS abuse.