Anabolic-androgenic steroids are man-made substances related to male sex hormones. “Anabolic” refers to muscle-building, and “androgenic” refers to increased masculine characteristics. “Steroids” refers to the class of drugs. These drugs are available legally only by prescription, to treat conditions that occur when the body produces abnormally low amounts of testosterone, such as delayed puberty and some types of impotence. They are also prescribed to treat body wasting in patients with AIDS and other diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass. Abuse of anabolic steroids, however, can lead to serious health problems, some irreversible.
Scientific research also shows that aggression and other psychiatric side effects may result from abuse of anabolic steroids. Many users report feeling good about themselves while on anabolic steroids, but researchers report that extreme mood swings also can occur, including manic-like symptoms leading to violence. Depression often is seen when the drugs are stopped and may contribute to dependence on anabolic steroids. Researchers report also that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.
Research also indicates that some users might turn to other drugs to alleviate some of the negative effects of anabolic steroids. For example, a study of 227 men admitted in 1999 to a private treatment center for dependence on heroin or other opioids found that 9.3 percent had abused anabolic steroids before trying any other illicit drug. Of these 9.3 percent, 86 percent first used opioids to counteract insomnia and irritability resulting from the anabolic steroids.
MTF annually assesses drug use among the Nation’s 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students. Annual** use of anabolic steroids remained stable at under 1.5 percent for students in 8th, 10th, and 12th grades in the early 1990s, then started to rise. Peak rates of annual use occurred in 2002 for 12th-graders (2.5 percent), in 2000 and 2002 for 10th-graders (2.2 percent), and in 1999 and 2000 for 8th-graders (1.7 percent). Eight-graders reported significant decreases in lifetime and annual steroid use in 2004, as well as a decrease in perceived availability of these drugs. A significant decrease in lifetime use was also measured among 10th-graders for 2004.
Most anabolic steroids users are male, and among male students, past year use of these substances was reported by 1.3 percent of 8th-graders, 2.3 percent of 10th-graders, and 3.3 percent of 12th-graders in 2004.