San Diego, California - Since the 1980s, illicit use of androgenic and anabolic steroids has spread from elite athletes into the general population. Despite the high level of steroid use among amateur athletes, little is known about this population. Mayo Clinic researchers sought to identify and characterize patterns of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) in a cohort of this population. “Current estimates are that 1 million to 3 million amateur athletes use steroids in the U.S.,” says the study’s lead author, Mary Westerman, M.D., a urology fellow at Mayo Clinic.
Researchers issued an anonymous, self-administered questionnaire between February 2015 and June 2015. Links to the survey, hosted on SurveyMonkey, were posted on message boards of websites popular among AAS users. Researchers analyzed 37 questions for the study.
The majority of the 231 respondents who met inclusion were white males, over 25, employed with above average incomes and formal education beyond high school. Ninety-three percent began using AAS after 18, and 81 percent reported using more than 400 mg of testosterone per week. Factors associated with longer duration of use included higher incomes, increased testosterone dosages, being over 35, being married and being self-employed. Seventy-seven percent had routine lab tests, and 38 percent reported having laboratory abnormalities at some point. Nearly all respondents experienced subjective side effects on and off testosterone.
“The population of AAS users is disparate from other drug abusers,” says Dr. Westerman. “Lab abnormalities and side effects are common in this population, and health care professionals should take this into account when counseling these patients.”