It is acknowledged that the use of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) and other performance- and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) in the gay community is higher than in the general community.

The 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey estimated that only 0.3 percent of Australians aged 12 years and older had ever used AAS for non-medical reasons, and that a negligible number had used in the last 12 months.

Many experts believe that these figures are an under-estimation of the number of PIEDs users, and that there are specific groups (other than gay men) who have much higher rates of use (e.g. regular gym goers, security personnel, and young men).

A recent study of PIEDs use in NSW reinforced the importance of body image as the major motivation for PIEDs use, particularly the desirable effects on physique.

The reported benefits of PIEDs use included: improved muscle definition, increased size, increased weight, increased strength, being able to train harder for longer, improved self-esteem, increased confidence, and positive feedback from others.

When it comes to the harms associated with these drugs the same study found the majority (97 percent) of PIEDs users had experienced at least one minor physical side effect.

The most commonly reported effects were increased appetite, water retention, reduced teste size, acne, increased sex drive and sleeplessness.

The majority of participants (87 percent) had also experienced some changes in their mood or behaviour when using PIEDs. The positive effects included increased motivation, increased confidence, feeling more satisfied with body image and having an increased sex drive.

The negative effects included irritability and aggression. Just over one-third (37 percent) of participants reported having experienced roid rage.

Studies have found a number of differences between gay PIEDs users and their straight counterparts: e.g., gay users tend to begin their PIEDs use at an older age, use less of the drugs and report fewer negative side effects.

Currently, Streetwize Communications is looking for people in the gay community who are using PIEDs, such as anabolic steroids and human growth hormones.

Participants will be assisting Streetwize to gain real life experiences of PIEDs use so that current, more accurate information can be gathered.

This research aims to provide a snapshot of the steroids scene in Australia so that potentially the most appropriate harm reduction messages and intervention strategies can be developed.

Interviews will take no longer than one hour. They explore the motivations, behaviours, and perceived risks associated with the use of steroids.

Interviews are recorded and participants are remunerated for their time. Confidentiality of all information collected for the research is assured. The interviews are now taking place in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.

Check out or call/ text Courtney at Streetwize on 0406 066 641 for more information.

Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?/p>

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