The Anabolic 500 survey: characteristics of male users versus nonusers of anabolic-androgenic steroids for strength training

Pharmacotherapy. 2011 Aug;31(8):757-66. doi: 10.1592/phco.31.8.757.


Study objective: To contrast the characteristics of two groups of men who participated in strength-training exercise-those who reported anabolicandrogenic steroid (AAS) use versus those who reported no AAS use.

Design: Analysis of data from the Anabolic 500, a cross-sectional survey.

Participants: Five hundred six male self-reported AAS users (mean age 29.3 yrs) and 771 male self-reported nonusers of AAS (mean age 25.2 yrs) who completed an online survey between February 19 and June 30, 2009.

Measurements and main results: Respondents were recruited from Internet discussion boards of 38 fitness, bodybuilding, weightlifting, and steroid Web sites. The respondents provided online informed consent and completed the Anabolic 500, a 99-item Web-based survey. Data were collected on demographics, use of AAS and other performance-enhancing agents, alcohol and illicit drug use, substance dependence disorder, other Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision diagnoses, and history of sexual and/or physical abuse. Most (70.4%) of the AAS users were recreational exercisers who reported using an average of 11.1 performance-enhancing agents in their routine. Compared with nonusers, the AAS users were more likely to meet criteria for substance dependence disorder (23.4% vs 11.2%, p<0.001), report a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder (10.1% vs 6.1%, p=0.010), use cocaine within the past 12 months (11.3% vs 4.7%, p<0.001), and report a history of sexual abuse (6.1% vs 2.7%, p=0.005).

Conclusion: Most of the AAS users in this study were recreational exercisers who practiced polypharmacy. The AAS users were more likely than nonusers to meet criteria for substance dependence disorder, report a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder, report recent cocaine use, and have a history of sexual abuse. The information uncovered in this study may help clinicians and researchers develop appropriate intervention strategies for AAS abuse.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anabolic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Androgens / administration & dosage*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances / administration & dosage*
  • Polypharmacy
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Testosterone Congeners / administration & dosage
  • Young Adult


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Androgens
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances
  • Testosterone Congeners