home in Fayetteville, Ga. near Atlanta earlier this week.
The deaths are suspected to be a murder-suicide that began over the weekend when Benoit allegedly killed his wife and son and ended on Monday when Benoit hanged himself.
Authorities have reportedly found anabolic steroids in Benoit's home, spurring speculation that so-called "'roid rage" may have been a factor.
In an interview with WebMD, Gary Wadler, MD, answered questions about 'roid rage and anabolic steroids, which are synthetic substances related to male sex hormones.
Wadler is a clinical associate professor of medicine at New York University's medical school. He is also a spokesman for the American College of Sports Medicine, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency, and the author of the textbook, Drugs and the Athlete.
What is 'roid rage?
'Roid rage, in many ways, I would characterize as a form of loss of impulse control. It provokes overreactions via a stimulus that normally doesn't produce such a severe reaction.
So say somebody says something to you that you don't like. You may put your fist through a wall. The impulse is there; it's overreaction. Forget the 'roid, for the moment. It's a rage ... and that rage is precipitated by the brain being exposed to anabolic steroids.
How common is it?
I don't think there's really good data on how common [it is]. It's not rare
by any means, that's probably fair to say. It's not extraordinarily common.
I think a better way to view this is a spectrum of behaviors by people on anabolic steroids ranging from being somewhat more assertive, moving up one notch to being frankly aggressive, and moving up another notch to actually having this roid rage. It's really an extreme of a spectrum of kind of behavioral things that you see with anabolic steroids.
Could anabolic steroids account for severely violent acts?
Yes. It's been implicated in a number of murders and can result in extreme
aberrations of behavior including the taking of one's life.
Another thing you have to be mindful of -- it may unmask an underlying
psychiatric disorder that has been basically kept in check until the individual is exposed to this category of drugs. And so what you may be seeing is unmasked psychiatric disorder.
Are there some people who may be particularly vulnerable?
I don't know if that's been studied, but certainly, I would be concerned about those who are on steroids for a long time on a high dose. There seems to be some correlation that the higher the dose, the greater the likelihood of having 'roid rage.
What is the difference between anabolic and corticosteroids?
The way I like to say it is it's the difference between John Smith and Mary Smith. They're both Smiths, but they couldn't be more different.
Anabolic steroids mean steroids that build muscle, retain protein, and
corticosteroids are so-called catabolic. They break down tissue. They're basically used for anti-inflammatory effects. People on corticosteroids for any length of time, you'll see them actually get muscle weakness. Their body will go through changes which are quite the opposite of what you see with anabolic steroids.
I don't believe that the shorthand-word "steroids" should ever be used because the public has been confused, and many people who are taking corticosteroids for a variety of medical illnesses are of the belief that they're going to get all these horrible side effects that people talk about in terms of anabolic steroids.
So people who are taking corticosteroids for legitimate medical reasons like asthma or arthritis -- they have no need to be concerned?
Corticosteroids have a lot of side effects, but they're not the side effects we see with anabolic steroids. They have their own unique set of side effects.
Aren't there some people who experience temperament changes while they're on corticosteroids?
They can be irritable. They can have difficulty sleeping, for example.
But that's not the same?
No, it's entirely different.