Steroids May Alter Aggression Area of Brain

I can’t say for certain if my son ever took steroids but he was always trying health food store things like protein drinks, creatine, etc….even upon being warned by me. He played football most of his life…even after high school for a short time with a semi-pro team. He was on the weight lifting team in high school and even broke some of the team records. He was dedicated to physical activity and self-disciplined when it came to exercise. He was always trying to beat his own personal best. I admired him immensely for his tenacity. I was proud that it was through his hard work that he obtained the goals that he set for himself.  It was only after he passed away that I learned from his writings that work outs helped him deal with an inner rage from something that happened to him when he was 13 years old. He was deeply hurt by a girl he really liked and her parents. It is another story for another page….not here.

When my son’s toxicology report came back it showed nothing in his blood. I was not surprised but wanted to know what could have gone wrong…that something in his system would show up.  I was torn between wanting an explanation in the toxicology report to not wanting anything to be there. He was not into drugs….he was very health oriented…..obsessed at times. His wife had insinuated to the investigator that he had taken steroids at one point.  The very insensitive and arrogant investigator bluntly told us that he wouldn’t be surprised if it was the steroids. We were dumbfounded and inconsolable by his cavalier way and the way he spoke to us. It was as if we were criminals…not the grieving parents of a son who died in a most inexplicable way.  We will never really know about how, if at all, steroids played a part in his death.

I thought this article is just another explanation of what can go wrong with the brain. There are many reasons for suicide…this is just another one.

This article is from the WebMD News Archive

Steroids May Alter Aggression Area of Brain

Anabolic Steroids in Adolescence Can Affect Behavior Later
WebMD Health News

Nov. 26, 2003 — You’ve read the news: High-profile athletes are caught using illegal anabolic steroids. Now, a study shows that players pay a lengthy price — their aggressive tendencies may be ramped-up long after they quit using steroids.

The report appears in the current issue of the journal Hormones and Behavior.

In the past 10 years, illegal use of anabolic steroids has risen among adolescents — reaching near-epidemic proportions, writes lead researcher Jill M. Grimes, a behavioral psychologist with Northeastern University in Boston.

An estimated 500,000 or more eighth to 10th graders across the country use anabolic steroids every year — and that number steadily increases every year. In fact, the numbers have doubled in four years: 2% of 10th grade boys used steroids in 1996; by 2000, that number jumped to 4%, Grimes reports.

This pattern of abuse is of particular interest because steroid use during adolescence is linked with more frequent and heavier use later in life — despite the physical and psychological problems that anabolic steroids cause, including aggressive behavior, she writes.

Her studies have shown that hamsters given daily, high doses of anabolic steroids throughout adolescent development were more overtly aggressive in their interactions with other hamsters — especially if they were not used to dealing with other hamsters.

This suggests that anabolic steroids used during adolescence stimulate aggression, possibly by affecting the activity of brain circuits that regulate this behavior, writes Grimes.

Embattled Hamsters

In this current study, she gave six preadolescent male hamsters daily injections of steroids for 30 days. The doses mimicked a “heavy use” regimen that an adolescent athlete might follow.

She picked six hamsters with low-aggression tendencies to be “intruder” hamsters; they got no steroid injections.

After the 30 days were up, she then put one “intruder” hamster in the “steroid-hamsters” cage — then watched their behavior. She also noted number of attacks and bites, including wild pursuits, lunges, and “cornering” with intent to bite. Each test lasted 10 minutes.

As her previous tests have shown, animals treated with anabolic steroids were significantly more aggressive — making more attacks and bites than their littermates.

  • One-half of the steroid-treated hamsters scored more than 20 total attacks. They were also quicker to attack, and stayed at it longer.
  • One-half of the untreated hamsters scored less than five attacks on their opponents.
  • A test of their brain chemistry showed significant changes in some — but not all — brain centers involved with aggressive behavior.

Daily steroid use may trigger aggression by altering brain activity, she explains. But with drug therapy, it’s possible to decrease that aggression, as has been shown in studies of rats and squirrel monkeys.

Also, her study suggests that anabolic steroids affect each child’s brain differently, she adds.

Together with her previous studies, there is important evidence here linking adolescent use of anabolic steroids and aggression — at least in hamsters, writes Grimes. More studies are needed to ferret out the effects on adolescent humans.

SOURCE: Grimes, J. Hormones and Behavior, Nov. 2003; vol 44: pp 271-280


One thought on “Steroids May Alter Aggression Area of Brain

  1. It’s understandable to try and figure out SOME reason as to the WHY. Extreme emotion, all by itself causes chemical reactions… that certainly can influence behavior and actions. Adding onto that, some lingering effect from another substance whether OTC or not…everything has side effects…even too much coffee…and then there’s the aspect of how our bodies utilize what’s put into it and how different we can all be in that area. A real conundrum.
    One thing for sure–that investigator was completely insensitive and sounds like a complete lout!

    I wonder if the increased usage among kids has anything to do with the economy. Perhaps some parents are hoping their artificially beefed-up children will gain athletic scholarships?

    I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor (experimental) rats that were subject to the cruel rats…sounds like what I went through in high school!
    A shocking study…yet the last sentence I admit, lightened me up…

    “More studies are needed to FERRET out the effects on adolescent humans.” !

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