Leslie Henderson is concerned about steroid abuse, not necessarily by sports luminaries like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, but rather by adolescents.
"There is this disconnect among young people that somehow your emotions, your thought processesthings that have to do with your brainare separate and different from what steroids may be doing to your bodyyour muscles, your heart, or your liver, or anything like that," says Henderson, a professor of physiology and neurobiology, and of biochemistry at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. She is also the senior associate dean for faculty affairs at Geisel.
Henderson reports that websites targeting steroid users often acknowledge that steroids can affect your bodythat's why they are takenor they can make you aggressive. However, they do not say anything about changing the way your brain works. "Teenagers need to recognize that these drugs actually do things to your brain, and your behavior comes from your brain," she says.
The drugs of concern are anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS), which are synthetic derivatives of testosterone, originally designed to provide enhanced anabolic (tissue-building) potency with negligible androgenic (masculinizing) effects, according to Henderson and her long-time Dartmouth collaborator Ann Clark, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.
"Although originally developed for clinical use, AAS administration is now predominantly one of abuse, and the medical benefits of low doses of AAS stand in sharp contrast to the potential health risks associated with the excessive doses self-administered by athletes," they write in a 2003 paper.
In addition to the danger implicit in high dosages is the range of uncontrolled variability in the composition of these illicit synthetics. "Because of their chemical modifications they can also directly interact with neurotransmitter receptors in the brain to change the way th
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