Bond University is conducting a research investigation into use of performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs). The purpose of the study is to measure PIEDs usage within the community and to better understand the perceived benefits/harms of PIEDs use, the type and severity of physical and psychological side effects which may be experienced by users, and the addiction potential or lack of addiction potential of PIEDs and criminal linkages.
Industry partners in the study are the Queenslanders Injectors Health Network and Lives Lived Well.
The growth of the gym subculture has been fuelled by increased popularity and pressure for physical performance and image enhancement; however parallel to this are potentially dangerous behaviours involving performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs). Evidence suggests that the market for PIEDs has expanded and such illicit substances are currently widely available and consumed. Reports from users, evidence from relevant industry bodies and the significant rise in PIED related arrests and seizures in recent years have all contributed to the troubling picture emerging.
In response to tougher legal measures for those buying and selling in this market PIEDs are now aligned with other illicit drugs like heroin, amphetamine and cocaine in terms of seriousness of offence, penalty and reflecting the overall potential for user and community harms.
Legislative changes alongside observable popularity of the gym subculture, and media coverage of elite athletes embroiled in doping scandals continue to generate attention and controversy surrounding PIEDs and raises questions about the reality of these drugs. This study seeks to contribute to the growing knowledgebase surrounding PIEDs by measuring current trends as well as listening to and incorporating the valuable perspectives of users and the wider community.
This paper presents the preliminary findings from survey respondents (n=86) who reveal unique insights into the experiences of those who currently or have historically consumed PIEDs. Specifically, attention is paid to respondents’ perceptions about the drugs’ potential capacity for physical and/or psychological harm or addiction. Other findings gauge: the level of danger users and nonusers attribute to PIEDs when compared with other illicit drugs; whether criminalisation is an appropriate response; and what alternatives could be more effective in reducing harm. This knowledge can improve community awareness and inform strategies aimed at maximising safety and minimising risks associated with PIEDs.