Aggression and irritability are notable psychiatric side effects of anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) use. However, no previous study has systematically reviewed and quantitatively synthesized effects reported by experimental studies on this topic.
We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the effect of AAS administration on self-reported and observer-reported aggression.
Twelve RCTs comprising a total of 562 healthy males were identified through systematic searches of MEDLINE, PsycInfo, ISI Web of Science, ProQuest, Google Scholar, and the Cochrane Library.
After excluding one outlier, AAS administration was associated with an increase in self-reported aggression under a random-effects model, albeit small (Hedges’ g = 0.171, 95% CI: 0.029–0.312, k = 11, p = .018), and when restricting the analysis to the effect of acute AAS administration on self-reported aggression under a fixed-effect model (g = 0.291, 95% CI: 0.014–0.524, p = .014). However, the above effects were neither replicated in the analysis of observer-reported aggression nor after restricting the analysis to the effects of the administration of higher (over 500 mg) and long-term (3 days to 14 weeks) doses.
The present meta-analysis provides evidence of an increase, although small, in self-reported aggression in healthy males following AAS administration in RCTs. Ecologically rational RCTs are warranted to better explore the effect of AAS administration on aggression in humans.||en_US