Objective: There is a general perception that use of performance-enhancing substances (PESs) does not fit the standard profile of substance use. This study sought to determine whether users of PESs report high-risk patterns of alcohol and other drug use and demonstrate risk behaviors associated with problematic substance use.
Method: Anonymous self-report questionnaires were administered to a sample of 234 male student athletes. PES users were defined as college athletes who reported past-year use of a broad array of PESs (including stimulants, hormone precursors, and nutritional supplements).
Results: Male athlete PES users (n = 73) compared with nonusers (n = 160) reported more problematic alcohol-use behaviors and more alcohol- and drug-use-related problems. The former compared with the latter was also more likely to report past-year use of tobacco products, marijuana, cocaine, psychedelics, and prescription drugs without a prescription. In addition, PES users demonstrated higher sensation seeking, and greater coping and enhancement motivations for drinking and marijuana use than non-PES users.
Conclusions: Although banned PESs are not typically viewed as having a high addiction potential, male athletes who use these drugs may be more likely to participate in other problematic substance-use behaviors. Importantly, the male athletes in this study who reported PES use also participated in substance-use behaviors that can have profound negative effects on athletic performance. More research on the use of PESs in college athletes is needed.