>Now, Thomas Hildebrandt’s team at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York are conducting the first longitudinal study of anabolic steroid users. By monitoring participants before, during and after cycles of steroid use, the group hopes to work out how the drugs exert their effects and how long these might last.

Once injected or swallowed, anabolic steroids are broken down into either androgen or oestrogen. The group’s preliminary results suggest that the amount and rate of breakdown varies between individuals and that the ratio of the two hormones may predict which users develop aggressive behaviours. Those with more oestrogen than androgen appear more likely to exhibit aggression.

Hildebrandt reckons steroid users could have a blood test to find out how likely they are to experience roid rage. Altered levels of androgen and oestrogen would be evident within the first couple of weeks of a three-to-six-month cycle of steroid use. Controversially, Hildebrandt also suggests that a drug that blocks the conversion of steroid to oestrogen could be taken to help suppress the aggressive side effects. These kinds of drugs – called aromatase inhibitors – are already prescribed to people who need to keep their oestrogen levels low, such as those with breast cancer.

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