Anabolic-androgenic steroid dependence? Insights from animals and humans (2008)

Front Neuroendocrinol. 2008 Oct;29(4):490-506. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2007.12.002. Epub 2008 Jan 3.

Wood RI.

Department of Cell & Neurobiology, Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, 1333 San Pablo Street, BMT 401, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA. [email protected]


Anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) are drugs of abuse. They are taken in large quantities by athletes and others to increase performance, with negative health consequences. As a result, in 1991 testosterone and related AAS were declared controlled substances. However, the relative abuse and dependence liability of AAS have not been fully characterized. In humans, it is difficult to separate the direct psychoactive effects of AAS from reinforcement due to their systemic anabolic effects. However, using conditioned place preference and self-administration, studies in animals have demonstrated that AAS are reinforcing in a context where athletic performance is irrelevant. Furthermore, AAS share brain sites of action and neurotransmitter systems in common with other drugs of abuse. In particular, recent evidence links AAS with opioids. In humans, AAS abuse is associated with prescription opioid use. In animals, AAS overdose produces symptoms resembling opioid overdose, and AAS modify the activity of the endogenous opioid system.