What are Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs?
Performance and image-enhancing drugs are substances that are used to try to enhance a person’s appearance or physical abilities, either by growing muscle or reducing body fat.
The main substances that are used for this purpose are:
- Human and animal anabolic and androgenic steroids
- Human growth hormone
- Other reproductive hormones
Performance and Image-Enhancing Drugs are sometimes called steroids, roids, juice, and gear.
How many young people have tried it?
According to the 2017 Australian secondary schools’ survey, 1 in 50 (2%) young people aged 12-17 used performance or image-enhancing drugs in the past year.
The 2016 National Drug Strategy Household survey reported that less than 0.1% of people aged 14 and older used steroids in the past year.
What are the effects?
Initially, performance and image-enhancing drugs can cause mood changes, such as euphoria (intense feelings of happiness), increased confidence and self-esteem, more energy and motivation to exercise. Users feel less tired and may have trouble sleeping. Libido (interest in sex) commonly increases but can decrease.
Performance and image enhancing drugs can cause problems when competing in sporting competitions. Many of the substances are banned because of the health risks involved, the shame it brings to sport as a whole, and in order to encourage fair competition. For these reasons, use of performance and image enhancing drugs can result in disqualification from competition, as well as harming an athlete’s long-term sporting career and reputation.
The effects can be short term or long term, and may include:
- Acne (e.g. pimples)
- High blood pressure
- Liver problems
- Heart problems
- Increased cholesterol levels
- Hair loss / baldness
- Tendon injuries / ligament damage
- Permanent short stature in adolescents
- Water retention
Specifically for males:
- Gynaecomastia (abnormal growth of breasts)
- Shrinking testicles
- Prostate problems
Specifically for females:
- Clitoral enlargement
- Smaller breasts
- Deepening of the voice
Specifically for young people:
- Stunted growth (when high hormone levels from steroids signal to the body to stop bone growth too early)
- Stunted height (if teens use steroids before their growth spurt)
- Increased agression (e.g. "roid rage")
- Increased irritability
- Mood swings
This factsheet was developed following expert review by researchers at the NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use and National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW. See detailed attachment for a list of sources for this information.