Human enhancement drugs and the pursuit of perfection

Adicciones. 2012;24(3):185-90.


The emerging threat to public health posed by the use of human enhancement drugs has remained largely unrecognised. In attempts to become stronger, happier or smarter, or to look thinner, younger or more beautiful, people are turning to a diverse range of pharmaceuticals. The widespread availability of drugs with the potential to improve human attributes, appearance and abilities has generated a new and growing audience of users. Unlike users of drugs such as heroin, cocaine etc, users of human enhancement drugs do not necessarily perceive themselves as 'drug users'. Those attracted to these drugs may have little or no knowledge or understanding of the physical or psychological harm associated with these substances or their potential for addiction. In addition to the potent effects of many human enhancement drugs, there are considerable risks associated to the clandestine nature of the market. The growing number of untested, banned or adulterated drugs and the lack of safeguards and quality assurance in the illicit manufacturing process has resulted in serious harms and fatalities. The ease with which pharmaceuticals can be manufactured and distributed, combined with the significant profits that can be made from the illicit market, has resulted in a growing challenge for policy makers and health systems in many countries. This editorial aims to raise awareness of this emerging drugs situation and provide a brief overview of some of the drugs and their associated risks.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Performance-Enhancing Substances*


  • Performance-Enhancing Substances