A group of amazingly diverse biological compounds belong to a chemical class known as steroids.* These substances include, among others, cholesterol, cortisone and its derivatives, vitamin D, digitalis, the sex hormones, estrogen, testosterone, and the synthetic anabolic/androgenic steroids (“AAAS”) abused by body builders and athletes.
One reason for this blog is to reassure those of you taking steroids for legitimate medical reasons. If you are on testosterone or estrogens (sex steroids) for treatment of endocrine dysfunction, hormone replacement, or glucocorticoids (cortisone-related steroids, grouped under “corticosteroids”), for treatment of a vast spectrum of medical conditions, (various forms of arthritis, collagen diseases, skin, kidney disease, Crohn’s, colitis, certain eye conditions, various cancers, organ transplant, etc.): You are not at risk for serious aggression or ” ‘roid rage,” although mental and emotional effects of steroid treatment can certainly occur on long term or high dose corticosteroid therapy.
Patients on corticosteroid treatment for a medical condition are thus to be distinguished from steroid abusers, especially body building types and weight lifters taking extremely large doses of anabolic/androgenic steroids (AAS). These doses may change a person’s self-image and result in violent mood swings, euphoria, suicidal tendencies, and especially violent antisocial behavior. The association between AAS and aggression (” ‘roid rage”) is widely accepted in the resistance training subculture and in the mainstream media (extreme sports, wrestling, boxing), and has been bolstered by the use of AAS “induced rage” as a legal defense.
But then violence and aggression, associated with steroid abuse or not, has become accepted by the public and fans as an alluring attraction of many spectator sports, including, but not limited to hockey, football, soccer, and basketball, where indeed anabolic/androgenic steroids are also widely abused. As we become more inured, if also threatened, by violence occurring in the form of everything from crime shows to regional wars and the worldwide epidemic of terrorism, one wonders when and where chemically-induced aggression plays a role. The following news item is quite scary, but don’t look for much follow-up coverage:
One quarter of Blackwater security guards in Iraq use steroids and other “judgment-altering substances,” according to a lawsuit filed by the families of several Iraqis killed or wounded in a Baghdad shooting in September.
Blackwater denies the charges.
*For those interested in chemistry, the class, steroid, refers to a “terpenoid lipid characterized by a carbon skeleton composed of four fused rings generally arranged in a 6,6,6,5 fashion.” Variations are created by attached functional groups.