"People who use steroids are more likely to engage in different forms of violence," said Dr Kevin M. Beaver of Florida State University in Tallahassee, a researcher on the study. The link remained, he added, even after he and his colleagues used statistical techniques to account for prior acts of violence, use of other drugs, race and age.
Outside the world of professional sports, where use of muscle-building anabolic-androgenic steroids has long been in the headlines, surveys have shown that US adolescents and young adults also use the drugs, Beaver and his colleagues write in the American Journal of Public Health.
While the physical effects of taking steroids are well understood, they add, less is known about how they might affect emotions and behaviour. Some studies support a link between steroid use and aggressive behaviour, but others have not, Beaver and his team say.
How the study was done
To investigate, the researchers looked at 6 823 young men who had joined the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health as 7th- to 12th-graders in 1994, and were followed for nearly seven years.
As young adults, 2.6% reported having ever used steroids, while 2.3% said they had used them in the previous year. Beaver speculated that the prevalence he and his colleagues found was likely an underestimate.
The young men who had used steroids were nearly three times as likely to report violent behaviours than study participants who had never used them, the researchers found.
When Beaver and his team adjusted for the effect of previous violent behaviour as reported in an earlier wave of data collection, as well as use of multiple drugs in adulthood, the association between steroid use and violence was weaker but still significant; steroid users in this scenario were about twice as likely to engage in violent behaviour.
Beaver said he and his colleagues are planning additional studies to find out just what it is about steroid use that could promote violent behaviour. – (Reuters Health, October 2008)