Anabolic androgenic steroids, antisocial personality traits, aggression and violence

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021 Apr 1;221:108604. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108604. Epub 2021 Feb 17.


Background: Anabolic androgenic steroid (AAS) use is associated with a wide range of adverse physical, psychological and social effects. While some experience few side effects, others might experience severe consequences. Aggression and violence are among the often-cited side effects associated with high-dose AAS use; however, most of the knowledge is generated from subgroups, such as prison populations. A likely hypothesis is that AAS use is associated with aggression and violence, but that these associations are complex and may be mediated by several factors, such as substance use, AAS dependence and personality traits.

Methods: In the present study, we tested this hypothesis by examining the relations between long-term AAS use and AAS dependence, aggression, interpersonal violence and potential mediating factors in a sample of male AAS exposed and non-exposed weightlifting controls (WLC), using self-report questionnaires. Based upon AAS dependence criteria, a sample of male AAS users and WLC (N = 139) were stratified into three groups: WLC (n = 66), AAS dependents (n = 41) and AAS non-dependents (n = 32).

Results: The results demonstrate that AAS dependents reported significantly higher levels of aggression compared to WLC and AAS non-dependents. While interpersonal violence was reported in all three groups, the highest percentage was found in the AAS dependent group.

Conclusion: In summary, our study confirms a link between AAS use, aggression and violence in a weightlifting population. However, the association is foremost seen in AAS dependent users and it seems that antisocial personality traits are an important mediator.

Keywords: Aggression; Anabolic androgenic steroids; Antisocial personality; Executive function; Violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / drug effects*
  • Anabolic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self Report
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Testosterone Congeners / adverse effects*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Weight Lifting / psychology


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Testosterone Congeners