Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Steroids use doesn't lead to drugs

A Swedish study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence has failed to confirm the gateway theory. Anthropologists Nina Garevik and Anders Rane of the Swedish Karolinska University found no evidence that the use of anabolic steroids by bodybuilders leads to drug addiction.

Steroids use doesn't lead to drugs

Steroids use doesn't lead to drugs

Steroids use doesn't lead to drugs
Ten years ago the psychiatrist Harrison Pope wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine proposing a theory that steroids use can lead to drug addiction. Pope based this on a study done in a clinic where a quarter of the opiate addicts had started out as chemical athletes, and had bought their first drugs from a steroids dealer. At that time Nubain was a used drug on the American steroids scene. Nubain is an opiate intended for junkies going through withdrawal, but chemical athletes used it occasionally to enable them to train harder.

Other researchers picked up quickly on Pope's discovery, and suggested that steroids may lead to changes in the brain that would make steroids users more susceptible to addiction. Some governments were so alarmed at the hard drugs steroids link that they stepped up their war on steroids even further. Other governments, such as the Swedish, decided to finance research on the phenomenon. Thanks to that and a subsidy from the WADA we have the study that has been published soon in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

The Swedish researchers interviewed 56 men in 2007-2008 who had been picked up by the Stockholm narcotics police. The men had drugs on them, and steroids as well, or had confessed to using steroids as well.

First the researchers selected the men in the group who used both drugs and steroids: there were 33 of them. Then the researchers tried to determine which came first: use of steroids or of drugs. "Only a minority (21%), of these individuals started their drug use with AAS and 55% with narcotic agents. Data about the first-used substance was missing for 24% of subjects", the Swedes write. "The most commonly co-used substances were cannabis (35%), cocaine (28%), diazepam (26%) and amphetamine (15%)."

These findings don't support the gateway theory, but when the researchers enquired about the co-users' lifestyles the theory was put to rest for good. Only a small number of men who used both drugs and steroids did also do weight training.

"Since supraphysiologic doses of AAS may increase fat-free mass and muscle size even without strength training, it may appeal to some potential users who are uninterested in training but want to become stronger for aesthetic or other reasons", write the Swedes. "AAS are also known to increase aggressiveness and inhibit impulse control, and this may make them desirable among users who intend to commit criminal acts."

So the group that the researchers studied was a criminal subgroup from the drugs scene, which had discovered the potential of steroids but which has nothing in common with the vast majority of steroids users in gyms and fitness centres.

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2010 Jun 1;109(1-3):144-6.