Epidemiological and neurobiological evidence for misuse of anabolic-androgenic steroids

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Misuse of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), is attributed to elite athletes and body builders. The attentive involvement of AAS in acts of violence seen in society has raised interest to evaluate the importance of social, psychological and neurobiological mechanisms that underlie the psychiatric states associated with onset of controlled misuse, its maintenance, and via abuse its transition to addiction. The objective of this thesis is to examine whether misuse of AAS shares mechanisms with epidemiological and neurobiological models of psychotropic substances. Epidemiological studies through a survey conducted in Uppsala, Sweden, suggest that misuse of doping agents, specifically AAS, has extended also to include adolescent males taking these agents in order to improve muscle mass, enhance sports performance, become intoxicated, braver, and because it is fun to try. Intake of AAS is in a subgroup highly connected to misuse of psychotropic substances. The adolescent AAS profile is highlighted in a multivariate model positing the factors high immigrant status, perceived average/bad school achievement, truancy, average/low self-esteem, strength training, heavy alcohol consumption and use of prescription tranquillisers to be independently associated with lifetime misuse. Neurobiological studies indicate that chronic treatment with supra-therapeutic doses of the AAS nandrolone, significantly affects dopamine receptor density in the male rat brain and the corresponding gene transcripts in the mesocorticolimbic and nigrostriatal dopamine systems, in brain areas of importance for hedonia, reward-related learning, incentives and motoric behaviours. Identical treatment regimen affects the density of serotonin receptors in regions regulating anxiety, aggression, cognitive functions, impulsivity and its associated loss of inhibitory control. These alterations may reflect aversive conditions that could be linked to severe alleostatic states of addiction following chronic continuous "binge" intoxications of addictive drugs.Thus, the AAS profile of misuse shares similarities with mechanisms of psychotropic substances regarding psychological and social models of onset and maintenance and with respect to AAS-induced neurobiological changes in the brain. This trend is alarming, strengthening the need of prevention and treatment programs targeting the specific subgroups of misusers.