Anabolic steroids and intoxicants

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Interactions of anabolic steroids and intoxicants

Anabolic-androgenic steroids are found to have an effect on central nervous system functioning in people and laboratory animals. It is presumed that misuse of anabolic steroids can cause dependence and exposure to the use of toxicants and dependence on toxicants. Thus, people seeking treatment for steroid abuse increasingly use different kinds of toxicants concurrently [1].

This article focuses on a few of the most frequently used intoxicants: amphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, cannabis and alcohol. Several of the research results on the mixed use of intoxicants are based on user interviews and animal testing with the primary steroid being nandrolone decanoate. However, many of these research results may also be universally applicable to the abuse of other anabolic steroids.

Steroid use lessens the pleasure caused by stimulants

Steroid use is often associated with amphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine and other stimulating drugs. Their popularity may be explained by the effects described by steroid users, such as more effective training and activation of fat burning.

However, anabolic steroids are found to alter the rewarding effects of drugs. Taking nandrolone lessens the pleasure caused by amphetamine and ecstasy [2]. Similar effects have also been found when interviewing users [3].

Because of the decrease in pleasure, steroid users may use larger drug doses to achieve the same pleasure level as users who don’t use steroids. As a consequence, the adverse effects of stimulants are significantly increased. For example, the risk of overdosing increases.

Using stimulants increases aggressive behavior related to the use of steroids, both in people [4] and laboratory animals. Amphetamine causes aggressive behavior even three weeks after the last nandrolone dose intake. Thus, using steroids may have a long term effect on an individual's behavior [5].

Both anabolic steroid and cocaine use change the functioning of heart. Concurrent use of these is found to increase the thickness of the left ventricle wall of the heart more than using either substance alone [6]. Nandrolone further increases the accelerated heartbeat caused by cocaine use. Thus, the concurrent use of nandrolone and cocaine burdens heart significantly [7].

Steroids change the central nervous system sensitivity to cannabis

Some steroid users may use cannabis to improve their sleep and decrease stress. There are less studies about the concurrent use of cannabis and anabolic steroids than about the concurrent use of steroids and stimulating drugs.

Anabolic steroids also lessen the pleasure of cannabis use. Nandrolone lessens the rewarding effect of the active substance of cannabis, THC, in laboratory animals, but it simultaneously increases the withdrawal symptoms that appear after the use [8]. Therefore, steroids possibly change the central nervous system sensitivity to cannabis.

Using alcohol and steroids concurrently adds aggressiveness

In laboratory animals, nandrolone increases the alcohol use for a long time after quitting the use of steroids. Together with abundant alcohol use, anabolic steroids further increase behavior problems caused by alcohol, such as losing control of things and self-control [9].

This may be a consequence of the effects of anabolic steroids on the functioning of the brain serotonin tractus [10]. For example, concurrent use of nandrolone and alcohol lessens fear and timidity and significantly adds aggressive behavior compared to use of only alcohol [11]. Thus, the use of anabolic steroids is sometimes connected to hate crimes, such as violent crimes [12].

These and several other research results support the assumption that anabolic steroids effect on an individual’s behavior and alter the effects of other toxicants by changing the biochemical functions of the central nervous system.

Sanna Kailanto 
Ph.D., Senior Researcher
National Institute for Health and Welfare

[1] Skårberg, Nyberg & Engström (2009): Multisubstance use as a feature of addiction to anabolic-androgenic steroids. European Addiction Research 15(2): 99–106.

[2] Kurling, Kankaanpää & Seppälä (2008): Sub-chronic nandrolone treatment modifies neurochemical and behavioral effects of amphetamine and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) in rats. Behavioural Brain Research 189(1): 191–201.

[3] Crace, Meilman, Lyerla & Presley (1995): Beyond performance enhancement: polypharmacy among collegiate users of steroids. Journal of American College Health 44(3): 98-104.

[4] Scher (1992): Death of a Goon. Sports Illustrated 77(8):32-38.

[5] Steensland, Hallberg, Kindlundh, Fahlke& Nyberg (2005): Amphetamine-induced aggression is enhanced in rats pre-treated with the anabolic androgenic steroid nandrolone decanoate. Steroids 70(3): 199–204.

[6] Tseng, Rockhold, Hoskins & Ho(1994): Cardiovascular toxicities of nandrolone and cocaine in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Fundamental and Applied Toxicology. 22(1): 113–21.

[7] Phillis, Irvine & Kennedy (2000): Combined cardiac effects of cocaine and the anabolic steroid, nandrolone, in the rat. European Journal of Pharmacology 398(2): 263–72.

[8] Celerier, Ahdepil, Wikander, Berrendero, Nyberg & Maldonado (2006): Influence of the anabolic-androgenic steroid nandrolone on cannabinoid dependence. Neuropharmacology 50(7): 788–806.

[9] Conacher & Workman (1989): Violent crime possibly associated with anabolic steroid use. American Journal of Psychiatry 146:679.

[10] Lindqvist, Johansson-Steensland, Nyberg & Fahlke (2002): Anabolic androgenic steroid affects competitive behaviour, behavioural response to ethanol and brain serotonin levels. Behavioural Brain Research. 133(1): 21–9.

[11] Johansson, Lindqvist, Nyberg & Fahlke (2000): Anabolic androgenic steroids affects alcohol intake, defensive behaviors and brain opioid peptides in the rat. Pharmacology Biochemistry Behaviour 67(2): 271–9.

[12] Choi & Pope (1994): Violence towards women and illicit androgen-anabolic steroid use. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry 6:21-5.

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