Androgens give users an excuse for aggression
If steroids users have been guilty of a violent crime, they often defend themselves with the excuse that they were a. provoked and b. reacted extremely aggressively due to their gear. According to German psychiatrists, attached to Aachen University, that story may be correct - but it may be incomplete. The Germans suspect that steroids users not only tend to react more aggressively to provocations because there are so many androgens in their bodies, but also because they know they are using steroids.
The researchers divided 103 men aged 18-35 into 2 groups. One group smeared with 5 grams of testosterone-containing gel Testim, which contained 50 milligrams of testosterone. [T] The other group received a gel without active substances. [PL]
A few hours after the application of the testosterone-containing gel, the men's testosterone level was higher.
After they had applied the gel, the men had to play a computer game with several rounds, where they thought they were playing against someone else. In reality, the outcome of the game was rigged. The men played for money.
On some rounds they won a bit of money [outcome], on other round they lost a bit of money [provocation]. Sometimes the men lost a small amount, sometimes a little more.
The men had the opportunity to 'punish' their virtual opponent by having him pay a fine, without benefiting financially from this fine in any way. The imposition of this punishment was therefore a form of aggression.
The men who had used a testosterone-containing gel 'punished' their virtual opponents with slightly higher amounts than the men who had received a gel without active substances. Click on the figure for a larger version.
A much larger factor, however, was whether the men believed that they had received a gel with testosterone. The men who believed that they had put testosterone on their skin [bT] 'punished' more severely than the men who believed they were in placebo group [bPL].
The men could not properly determine in which group they were.
"Testosterone administration does not generally increase aggression per se, but increases tit-for-tat behavior: the higher the provocation the higher the punishment, the lower the provocation, the lower the punishment", summarize the Germans. "This again underlines the context sensitive effectiveness of exogenous testosterone."
"In contrast, the belief to have received testosterone might actually enhance frustration and leads to an increase of aggressive behavior. Alternatively, the assumption of having received testosterone might provide a retrospective explanation and excuse of usually socially undesirable behavior."
Front Behav Neurosci. 2018 Mar 2;12:37.
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