steering for steroids


Drenched in drugs
Beyond biking
Blood doping
Steroids 'n kids
'roid rage


All in the mind?
Testosterone -- the male hormone -- has gotten a bad rap lately. Name a social ill related to violence -- war, wife-beating, child abuse -- and it's likely been blamed on testosterone and the many closely related compounds.

Medicine's standard answer to the question of whether steroid doping has psychological effects on athletes has been "no," says psychiatrist Harrison Pope of McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. But he says that's a misconception resulting from the fact that medical experimenters cannot ethically give large doses of steroids.

In the lab, testosterone doses would be limited to 300 milligrams per week. Real athletes, Pope notes, take more than 1,000 milligrams, leading to "a whole different ballgame" where psychological symptoms become "common, and can be very severe."

Pope, who sometimes serves as an expert witness in court, says he's been "involved in a dozen murder cases where someone went on steroids and killed somebody without a history of violence or crime beforehand." In one case, a 16-year-old boy was charged with killing his 14-year-old girlfriend. Pope says, "We have no evidence of any criminal or violent activity before he started taking steroids. At that point, he had a series of run-ins with the police, which culminated in the murder. He was convicted and sent up for life."

As the example shows, wives and girlfriends are often the victims of men who are cranked up on steroids. In a study of 88 athletes who used steroids, Pope found 23 percent of current users reporting "major mood disturbances" including mania and major depression. Steroid users also reported aggressive or violent incidents. user, using his fists and a metal bar, seriously damaged three cars, all with their drivers cowering inside, because he had become annoyed by a traffic delay. Another was arrested for causing $1,000 of property damage during a fit of anger at a sporting event; another was arrested for assaulting a motorist; another rammed his head through a wooden door.... Several users reported that they were expelled from their homes by parents, wives, or girlfriends because they became intolerably aggressive. (See "Psychiatric and Medical Effects..." in the bibliography)
But steroids are not only about hyper-masculinity. In this study, as in many others, male users reported larger breasts and smaller testicles. Go figure.

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