Anabolic androgen steroid abuse is associated with multiple psychiatric symptoms and is a significant public health problem. The biological mechanisms underlying behavioral symptom development are poorly understood.
We examined levels of monoamine metabolites, neurohormones, and neuropeptides in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) of 17 healthy men, at baseline and following 6 days of methyltestosterone (MT) administration (3 days of 40 mg/d, then 3 days of 240 mg/d). Subjects received MT or placebo in a fixed sequence, with neither subjects nor raters aware of the order. Potential relationships were examined between CSF measures, CSF MT levels, and behavioral changes measured on a visual analog scale.
Following MT administration, levels of 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) were significantly lower (mean +/- SD, 103.8 +/- 47 vs 122.0 +/- 50.7 pmol/mL; P<.01), and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) levels were significantly higher (mean +/- SD, 104.7 +/- 31.3 vs 86.9 +/- 23.6 pmol/mL; P<.01). No significant MT-related changes were observed in CSF levels of corticotropin, norepinephrine, cortisol, arginine vasopressin, prolactin, corticotropin-releasing hormone, beta-endorphin, and somatotropin release-inhibiting factor. Changes in CSF 5-HIAA significantly correlated with increases in "activation" symptoms (energy, sexual arousal, and diminished sleep) (r = 0.55; P =.02). No significant correlation was observed between changes in CSF and plasma MT, CSF MHPG, and behavioral symptoms.
Short-term anabolic androgenic steroid use affects brain neurochemistry, increasing CSF 5-HIAA and decreasing MHPG. Changes in 5-HIAA levels caused by anabolic androgenic steroids are related to the behavioral changes we observed. In this small sample, we did not observe a significant relationship between behavioral measures and either dose of MT or CSF and plasma levels of MT.