Steroid users make an educated choice
By Ian Gerard

January 18, 2006

STEROID users are tertiary graduates or professionals who worry about their "roid rage " reputation but are prepared to put body image ahead of the well-known dangers of the drugs.
A survey of non-athletes in the often subterranean world of performance and image-enhancing drugs challenges the conventional wisdom that steroid users are angry young men prone to outbursts of fury.

A majority of the steroid users who took part in the federal government-funded survey had a university degree or held down a professional job, but continued to use the drugs despite unsettling side effects for the image-conscious, such as acne and shrinking testicles.

While aware of the long-term health risks posed by PIEDs, the vast majority were still more concerned about the state of their pecs and abs.

"They are a very unusual group of drug users," study co-author and National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre information manager Paul Dillon said. "They get an incredible amount of information about their drug of choice before they commence use and the vast majority of them try to use it as responsibly as possible."

Almost two-thirds of the 60 men who took part in the study had completed Year 12 and 33 per cent had gained a university degree and earned more than $60,000 a year. A further 32 per cent had completed a trade or TAFE studies.

Most held full-time jobs, with 15 per cent of respondents employed in white-collar administration or management positions.

"We don't see the same levels of school education and after-school education in other groups of drug users," co-author Briony Larance said.

"This is a group that has an interest in health and physical activity, they are very regular gym-goers, are interested in diet and nutrition and draw on all kinds of research."

In August, state and territory police chiefs asked the federal Department of Health and Ageing to commission research into the use of PIEDS to help focus law-enforcement operations.

Most PIEDS used in Australia, such as anabolic steroids , either enhance muscle growth or reduce body fat, and mostly are prescription-only or veterinary drugs diverted to the black market.

Body image was the most popular reason for taking steroid-like drugs in users aged between 18 and 25, who represented one-third of all respondents. A quarter of respondents were bodybuilders, the "pioneers" in the abuse of steroids.

While more than 90 per cent said the benefits of steroids outweighed any associated health risks, almost every user reported at least one physical side effect.

The most commonly reported physical side effects included increased appetite, water retention, reduced testicle size, acne, increased sex drive and sleeplessness.

Other research has documented the severe psychogenic side effects of high doses of steroids, which include aggressive and violent behaviour.

Problems with drug withdrawal and drug dependence are also common in users of anabolic steroids and these drugs may also provoke psychiatric disorders.

Mr Dillon said users were often difficult to reach, partly because they were concerned about their portrayal as quick-tempered young men.

"This study showed that realistically if you're someone who has a temper this isn't the drug for you, but it's not going to turn a harmless man into a murderer," he said.

"Definitely there are people who say they have experienced a change of mood, but they aren't about to go and kill people."

The study also brought into question the assumption that most steroid users became involved with the drug through going to the gym.

More than half of men surveyed said they first became involved in taking performance-enhancing drugs through de****gs with friends.,10117,17858880-2,00.html