The use of anabolic steroids is linked to criminal activity such as illegal weapon possession and fraud, according a Swedish study published on Monday.
The study which provided a fresh warning about the dangers of the muscle-building drugs however also revealed that steroid users were no more likely than nonusers to commit violent crimes such as murder, assault, rape and property crimes.
The researchers studied the relationship between steroids associated with increased aggressiveness and impulsive violent outbursts and criminal behavior. They looked at people using steroids without a doctor's prescription.
The researchers led by Dr. Fia Klotz of Uppsala University in Sweden wrote "Our findings indicate that the use of (anabolic steroids) is associated not only with impulsive antisocial behavior but also with an antisocial lifestyle involving various types of criminality."
The study appears in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.
241 Swedes who tested positive for steroid use out of a sample of 1,440 tested for the drugs from 1995 and 2001 at a laboratory in Huddinge, Sweden were found to have a strong connection to some criminal acts but not others.
The steroid users were roughly twice as likely to have been found guilty of a weapons crime and 1-1/2 times as likely to have been found guilty of fraud.
Anabolic steroids are drugs that are related to male sex hormones which can be taken through injections or orally. Several athletes, bodybuilders and others, both male and female, use steroids without a prescription to build muscle bulk and strength to look better.
Some of the side effects of taking steroids include liver cancer, kidney disease and bad acne. In addition in men steroids have been found to shrink testicles, cause lower sperm count, raise prostate cancer risk, increase infertility and cause baldness. For women, they can cause facial hair growth, menstrual problems, male-pattern baldness and a deeper voice. In adolescents growth can be stunted.
Steroid abusers also show depression, extreme mood swings, delusions, impulsiveness, paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, and impaired judgment.
The people in the Swedish study were of average age 20 who were referred to the laboratory for drug testing by police, substance abuse clinics, customs agents, and psychiatric facilities. Three of the 214 steroid users were women.
The association between steroid use and convictions for weapons offenses was explained by researchers as a need among those committing armed robberies or collecting crime-related debts might feel the need to be more muscular or heavier. The researchers concluded that steroids combined with other drugs might make a person more prone to commit fraud.