The anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are a family of hormones that includes testosterone and its derivatives. These substances have been used by elite athletes since the 1950s, but they did not become widespread drugs of abuse in the general population until the 1980s. Thus, knowledge of the medical and behavioral effects of illicit AAS use is still evolving. Surveys suggest that many millions of boys and men, primarily in Western countries, have abused AAS to enhance athletic performance or personal appearance. AAS use among girls and women is much less common. Taken in supraphysiologic doses, AAS show various long-term adverse medical effects, especially cardiovascular toxicity. Behavioral effects of AAS include hypomanic or manic symptoms, sometimes accompanied by aggression or violence, which usually occur while taking AAS, and depressive symptoms occurring during AAS withdrawal. However, these symptoms are idiosyncratic and afflict only a minority of illicit users; the mechanism of these idiosyncratic responses remains unclear. AAS users may also ingest a range of other illicit drugs, including both "body image" drugs to enhance physical appearance or performance, and classical drugs of abuse. In particular, AAS users appear particularly prone to opioid use. There may well be a biological basis for this association, since both human and animal data suggest that AAS and opioids may share similar brain mechanisms. Finally, AAS may cause a dependence syndrome in a substantial minority of users. AAS dependence may pose a growing public health problem in future years but remains little studied.
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