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Study: Steroid Abuse Can Become Addicting

Some studies show that use of anabolic steroids - body building drugs that imitate testosterone - has declined among teenagers. But other researchers say the problem is still prevalent. Meanwhile, a new study on anabolic steroids shows they can be habit forming.

It is a familiar story. A major athlete fails a drug test or evidence surfaces about steroid use.

Steroid abuse among sports figures

Former Olympian Marion Jones. Tour de France winner Floyd Landis. Some of baseball's greatest players. In February, the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriquez confessed on ESPN television to past steroid use.

"I did take a banned substance," he said. "And for that I'm very sorry. And deeply regretful."

Dr. Michael Irwig is an endocrinologist at George Washington University, "Most of the patients that I've seen have been recreational athletes or personal trainers in gyms," he said.

Dr. Irwig says because the drugs are illegal, it is impossible to say how many people use them and what damage long term use might cause.

"There really aren't any great studies that have been done on the long term effects of steroids. So we really don't know until we have the studies," he added.

Abuse of steroids can have negative impact on health

What is known, steroids can make users more vulnerable to heart attack and stroke.

And a new study suggests users can become dependent on these drugs.

Thirty percent of male weight lifters who participated in a Harvard affiliated study - and admitted to steroids use - reported becoming addicted.

The researchers found steroids can be as difficult to quit as other types of habit forming drugs, even though, unlike cocaine and other addictive substances, steroids do not produce a "high" (a feeling of euphoria).

Dr. Irwig says young people use steroids not just to improve athletic performance.

"I've also noticed in our society that there's a really large focus on body image," he said, "and I think that's why a lot of young people are using steroids."

Researchers say there should be more studies on who is likely to become addicted and how to help treat those who are.