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Performance and image enhancing drugs

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Last updated : March 23, 2017

What are performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs)?

Performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs) are substances taken by people with the intention of improving their physical appearance and to enhance their sporting performance.

Types of PIEDs

Anabolic steroids – ‘roids, gear, juice

Anabolic-androgenic steroids are synthetic hormones that imitate male sex hormones, specifically testosterone. They can be taken either as an injection or as a tablet. Steroids are used due to their anabolic effects that assist in the growth and repair of muscle tissue.1

Peptides

Peptides stimulate the release of human growth hormone, which has an important role in muscle and bone growth. Peptides have become increasingly popular among professional and amateur athletes as they are hard to detect due to how quickly they are absorbed by the body.2

Hormones

Hormones are chemicals released by the body. For example, the pituitary gland naturally releases growth hormone which tells bones and muscles to grow and repair. There are numerous artificial hormones and hormone stimulating drugs available in the PIEDs market.2 These include:

  • Growth hormones like AOD-9604, which has fat burning properties and is used by athletes to increase power-to-weight ratios.2
  • Selective Androgen Receptor Modules (SARMs) appear to only act on anabolic receptors that cause tissue (such as bone and muscle) growth.2 These are classed as a prohibited drug by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).3
  • Insulin-like growth factors (IGF-1) is a hormone produced by the liver, necessary for cell growth in the body. It is used for muscle growth and the development of cartilage and bone.2 This substance is a prohibited substance according to the WADA list.3
  • Mechano growth factor (MGF) is derived from IGF-1 and helps with tissue repair and adaptation.2 It is used mostly by bodybuilders and is on the WADA prohibited list.3

Why do people use PIEDs?

For most people who use PIEDs, body image is the main motivation for use. Due to desirable effects on physique, and improved self-esteem and confidence, people who use these drugs can develop a psychological dependence.4 However, for professional athletes it is the advantage in physical strength and size that is the main reason for use.

The expected benefits of using these substances may include:

  • Increasing the size and definition of muscles
  • Reducing water retention
  • Reducing body fat
  • Increasing strength and endurance
  • Helping the body recover quicker from injury4

Harms

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk – even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It is important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

The harms associated with PIEDs, depend on the type of drug being used: different categories of drugs have different harms, though there are a few shared harms.

When injected, PIEDs have the additional harms associated with other injecting drug use, including infection, transmission of disease through needle sharing and other problems caused by incorrect injecting technique.4

People who use steroids should be aware of a number of negative physical, psychological and behavioural side effects including:

  • Acne
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver and heart problems
  • Gynaecomastia (growth of breast tissue)
  • Hair loss
  • Increased aggression and irritability (‘roid rage’)
  • Depression
  • Shrinking testicles and prostate problems4

Reported side effects of peptides and hormones include:

  • Water retention
  • Numbness of the hands and feet
  • Increased tiredness

As a number of synthetic peptide hormones are experimental or not yet approved for human use, it is difficult to pinpoint the specific harms they may cause.2

It is important to note that many of these drugs do have legitimate, medical uses when they are prescribed and supervised by a medical professional.

 

PIEDs and the law

It is illegal to manufacture, import, possess, use or supply steroids without a prescription or medical practitioner licence. The penalties for illegally administering steroids varies for every Australian state and territory.5

It is also against the law to inject another person with steroids, or for them to be self-administered without a prescription.
Medical practitioners can only prescribe steroids for legitimate medical reasons.5

Steroid use is banned in competitive sport. Testing positive for steroids can result in fines, suspensions or permanent bans.6

PIEDs statistics
  • According to the Australian Crime Commission the number of steroid seizures at our borders has increased seven fold between 2004/05 (50) and 2013/14 (357).7
  • The Australian Needle and Syringe Program survey found that performance and image enhancing drug use grew from 2% in 2010 to 7% in 2014.8
References
  1. Larance, B., Degenhardt, L., Dillon, P. & Copeland, J. (2005). Use of performance and image enhancing drugs among men: A review. Technical Report No. 232. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.
  2. Australian Crime Commission. (2013). Organised crime and drugs in sport. Canberra: Australian Crime Commission.
  3. World Anti-Doping Agency. (2014). The 2015 prohibited list: International standard. Montreal: World Anti-Doping Agency.
  4. Larance, B., Degenhardt, L., Dillon, P. & Copeland, J. (2005). Rapid assessment of performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs) in New South Wales: Feasibility study. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre.
  5. Australian Institute of Criminology (2011). Steroids.
  6. World Anti-Doping Authority (2014). Anabolic agents.
  7. Australian Crime Commission. (2015). 2013-14 Illicit Drug Data Report.
  8. Iversen, J. & Maher, L. (2015). Australian NSP Survey – Prevalence of HIV, HCV and injecting and sexual behaviour among Needle and Syringe Program attendees, 20 year national data report 1995-2014.

Effects

acne, assist growth and repair of muscle, assist in bone growth, depression, gynaecomastia, hair loss, increase strength and endurance, increased aggression, prostate problems, recover from injury, reduce body fat, shrinking testicles.

AKA

'roids, gear, juice.