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Steroids stir mental backlash.

Steroids stir mental backlash

Large doses of steroids taken by athletes to increase muscle size and strength also pack a psychiatric punch. In interviews with 41 bodybuilders and football players who use steroids, psychiatrists Harrison G. Pope and David L. Katz of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., found one-third of them developed severe psychiatric complications during prior periods of steroid explosure.

The athletes routinely took steroids in dosages 10 to 100 times greater than those used in medical studies of these drugs, note the investigators in the April AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY. Study participants also reported using as many as five or six steroids simultaneously in cycles lasting from 4 to 12 weeks. The researchers say this practice, known as "stacking," appears to be common and may be responsible both for psychiatric effects and muscle gains far beyond those witnessed in research settings.

Steroid users were recruited from 38 gyms in Massachusetts and Los Angeles and interviewed about their behavior and feelings during and between periods of steroids use. Nine athletes experienced episodes of severe depression or mania only during steroid exposure. Some subjects said that, at the time, they believed that nothing in the world could hurt them. One man deliberately drove into a tree at 40 miles per hour while a friend videotaped him. Another five subjects reported psychotic symptoms in association with steroid use, including auditory hallucinations of voices.

These observations may not represent the experiences of all steroid users, say the researchers, since only a minority of those contacted were willing to be interviewed. They suspect, however, that "we were getting only a glimpse of a large underground subculture."
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Title Annotation:psychiatric complications caused by athletes' use of steroids
Publication:Science News
Date:Apr 30, 1988
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