"Most people use anabolic steroids to enhance their physical performance, but they deny that steroids may be addictive," noted lead researcher Ruth Wood, PhD, Professor of Cell and Neurobiology at USC. "Unlike other commonly abused drugs, the primary motivation for steroid users is not to get high, but rather to achieve enhanced athletic performance and increased muscle mass. The complex motivation for steroid use makes it difficult to determine the addictive properties of anabolic steroids in humans. Our goal was to create an experimental model of addiction where athletic performance and other reinforcing effects are irrelevant."
Wood's study is among the first to examine the potential for anabolic steroid addiction. The research was modeled after well-established methods used to study highly addictive drugs, such as cocaine and heroin. Hamsters were implanted with small cannulas for self-administration of commonly abused steroids into their brains. The animals then spent four hours per day in a chamber with access to two delivery mechanisms. When the hamster operated the active mechanism, he received 1 microgram of testosterone, or one of several commonly abused steroids: nandrolone, drostanolone, stanozolol, or oxymetholone. The inactive mechanism produced no response. A computer recorded the number of times each animal used the active and inactive delivery mechanisms. Overall, the animals showed a marked preference for testosterone, nandrolone or drostanolone, engaging the active delivery mechanism twice as often as the control. However, not all steroids are rewarding: hamsters did n
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