Back in June of 2007 a tragic story of murder-suicide involving a professional wrestler made the headlines. Chris Benoit of World Wrestling Entertainment fame reportedly murdered his 7 year old boy, Daniel, and his wife, Nancy, before hanging himself. Since high levels of testosterone were found in his system, the question was raised as to whether this was yet another incident of “roid rage”.
What Is Roid Rage?
Roid rage is the term given to the destructive rage that sometimes occurs in people who abuse anabolic steroids also known as anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS). Studies have shown that these drugs may cause people to become very aggressive, highly irritable, hostile, and at times, violent. They may exhibit severe mood swings and become manic, with no ability to control their impulses. Additionally, they may become extremely paranoid and delusional. They may perceive themselves as invincible. When these effects are combined with impaired judgment, the results can be lethal.
Some research suggests that those most vulnerable to developing roid rage are people who have a prior history of aggressive behavior or problems with anger. Both men and women can develop roid rage. This phenomenon is usually associated with the long term use of these steroids.
The severe behavioral and emotional aberrations resulting from high levels of anabolic-androgenic steroids have been tied to several violent incidents over the years. These include both murders and suicides. In fact, suicide rates are higher for those who abuse steroids than for the general population. Needless to say, roid rage is a very serious potential side effect of AAS.
What Are Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids (AAS)?
AAS are substances that are synthetically manufactured. They mimic testosterone, the male sex hormone. They were initially developed back in the 1930s to treat a condition known as hypogonadism. In hypogonadism, the testes fail to produce adequate amounts of testosterone. Physicians prescribe synthetic steroids to treat delayed sexual development and certain kinds of impotence. They are also prescribed at times to offset the muscle wasting that often occurs due to serious medical conditions such as AIDs and cancer.
When used, AAS work in the brain by binding to the receptors of estrogen and androgen cells. The effects are immediate but do not result in the high often associated with most popular drugs of abuse. This is because they don’t cause a sudden rise in dopamine levels. When taken over time, however, they can adversely impact many of the brain’s chemicals. This can result in a powerful affect on both behavior and mood in the user.
Anabolic-androgenic steroids are popular with athletes and bodybuilders, because they can stimulate the growth of skeletal muscles. Abuse of these drugs occurs frequently in both amateur and professional sports, and has impacted the results many sporting events. Titles and awards have been stripped from many star athletes following proof that they boosted their chances of winning by using illicit steroids.
Steroids of this type are readily available and easily attained by those who desire to use them to enhance their athletic performance. They may be smuggled into the U.S. from other countries, or manufactured in clandestine domestic labs. They can be purchased online and are often sold at sports competitions and gyms.
AAS are not abused only by athletes and bodybuilders. Some individuals abuse them in an attempt to improve the way they look. They can be injected or taken orally. Some people use them periodically – taking them for a few weeks or months at a time. They stop for period of time and then start using them again. This off and on method of use is known as “cycling”. They may also be taken with in combination with other steroids, with the goal of making them as effective as possible. This is known as “stacking”.
Treatment of Roid Rage
Individuals who develop roid rage often require immediate inpatient treatment in order to keep them from harming themselves or others if they are psychotic and / or violent. Sedative drugs are often given initially to calm them down, and treatment may include the use of antipsychotic medication. In most cases the symptoms will subside within a couple of weeks, although it can take much longer.
Stopping the steroids too quickly can cause a serious depression to develop, so gradually decreasing them under medical supervision is recommended. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) may be required for those who have or develop treatment resistant depression. While many people fully recover, a small percentage may require ongoing psychiatric treatment.