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UI researchers study link between steroids, aggressive driving
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Though anabolic steroids are known to produce aggressive
behavior, a University of Iowa study shows that the drugs do not necessarily
cause automobile drivers to take extra risks behind the wheel.
Several case studies have reported excessively risky or hostile driving in
steroid users. But using the Iowa Driver Simulator, UI researchers found that
a group of test subjects showed no changes in driving behavior after several
weeks on low and high dose steroids. Subjects also registered no significant
changes on psychological tests measuring aggressive or hostile tendencies.
The driving study is part of a larger UI research project funded by the National
Institute of Drug Abuse on the effects of anabolic steroids on behavior and
thinking. The drugs are often used by weight lifters and other athletes to
increase muscle mass and strength. Results of the driving study were published
in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.
"Our study mimicked the ways these drugs are being used on the street,"
says Dr. Paul Perry, UI professor of psychiatry and pharmacy. Study subjects
received weekly steroid injections that equaled one to five times the amount
of testosterone produced each week by normal males.
Of 42 healthy men enrolled in the larger study, nine participated in the
driving component. All were experienced drivers with no history of psychiatric
illness. The driving simulation included eight potentially hazardous or frustrating
events, including slow-moving vehicles and a car that suddenly cuts in front
of the driver.
Subjects demonstrated no significant increase in risky driving based on measures
of speed, braking, distance between cars, lane deviation and other factors.
They also showed little change in tests of hostility or aggression.
These findings do not mean that all links between anabolic steroid use and
aggressive driving should be dismissed, researchers say. They suggest that
increased aggression and its effects on driving may require even higher doses
of the drugs.
Perry says that personality traits also may help determine how steroids affect
driving. Some researchers have hypothesized that steroid abuse is one aspect
of a pre-existing tendency toward risk-taking. The controlled design of the
UI driving study may have screened out subjects predisposed to aggression
by eliminating those who used illicit drugs or showed other risk behaviors.
Further work is needed to show how steroids impact driving in different personality