Impact of anabolic androgenic steroids on adolescent males

Physiol Behav. 2010 Jun 1;100(3):199-204. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2010.01.007. Epub 2010 Jan 22.


Anabolic androgenic steroid (AAS) use increased dramatically among adolescent males. This review focuses on studies using animal models of AAS exposure during adolescence which is a hormonally sensitive developmental period. AAS exposure during this critical period has wide-ranging consequences, including increased dendritic spine density, altered brain serotonin levels and escalated aggression in response to physical provocation. Human data suggest that AAS induces indiscriminate and unprovoked aggression often described as "'roid rage". However, animal studies indicate that the behavioral impact of AAS is modulated by experiential and social contingencies, a perceived provocation, and the chemical composition of the AAS. The AAS, testosterone increases aggression in juvenile and adult male rats when physically provoked. In contrast, stanzolol, inhibits aggression in both juvenile and adult male rats, even when physically provoked. Nandrolone has minimal effects on aggression, unless preceded by attack training. Exposure to AAS during adolescence may have a host of unintended bio-behavioral consequences. Yet, the perception of harmlessness surrounds AAS use. The perception of harmlessness is promoted by the availability of AAS especially through internet pharmacies. The perception of acceptability is reflected in current cultural ethics that no longer condemn cheating to obtain personal achievement or success. A prevailing conviction is that although AAS are illegal they are not really bad. Reduction of the availability of AAS to adolescents requires ardent legislative and legal intervention. The problem of acceptability can be addressed by educating adolescents about the short-term and long-term effects of AAS on brain and behavior, to increase awareness of the potential consequences of AAS use that apply directly to them.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / drug effects*
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aggression / drug effects
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Anabolic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Androgens / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Dendritic Spines / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nandrolone / adverse effects*
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Rats
  • Serotonin / metabolism
  • Social Behavior
  • Testosterone / adverse effects*
  • Time Factors


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Androgens
  • Serotonin
  • Testosterone
  • Nandrolone