Steroid and prescription medicine abuse in the health and fitness community: A regional study

Eur J Intern Med. 2006 Nov;17(7):479-84. doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2006.04.010.


Background: The purpose of this study was to identify the prevalence of abuse of certain prescription medicines (POM) amongst health club attendees. The non-therapeutic use of such medicines has previously been considered to be restricted to the professional athlete.

Methods: In the summer of 2005, health club users in the South Wales area were given questionnaires and asked to return them in a stamped, addressed envelope. Anonymity of the respondents was assured.

Results: From the distribution of 210 questionnaires, the response rate was 69.5% (146 questionnaires). The mean age of the sample was 33.6+/-6.7 years (range 15-72 years). Anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) use is prominent amongst recreational gym users in this regional sample, with 70% (102 individuals) reporting AAS use, 65.8% (96 individuals) of whom were currently still using. Some 7% of respondents (10 individuals) were female and they also reported taking medication. This research demonstrated an enormous increase in the use of growth hormone (24%), insulin (14%), and tamoxifen (22%), with smaller increases in other drugs.

Conclusion: Drug users were from all levels of society and reported various physiological and psychological side effects from their use. The present study indicated that the most used medicine/drug from less than reputable sources was still AAS but that, as a consequence of the internet revolution, they were being caught up by the more expensive designer drugs, particularly growth hormone. Physicians and medical personnel must become aware that the use of AAS and other prescription medicines is on the increase and appears to be predominantly used for cosmetic reasons.