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A Sentinel Population: The public health benefits of monitoring enhanced body builders

McVeigh, James and Salinas-Edwards, Michael and Ralphs, Robert (2020) A Sentinel Population: The public health benefits of monitoring enhanced body builders. International Journal of Drug Policy. ISSN 0955-3959

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Abstract

There is heightened recognition of the public health implications of anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) for the use of image and performance enhancement; with increasing evidence of their long-term negative health impacts, the hazards associated with their administration (often via injection), and the variability and unpredictability of their contents. In order to optimise the effects of these drugs, together with strict dietary and training regimes, AAS users typically supplement their use with an expansive and continually evolving range of ancillary drugs. The discovery and subsequent adoption of these drugs by the broader AAS user population is largely dependent upon a minority of social influencers within the bodybuilding community. Pioneering enhanced bodybuilders who self-experiment with a diverse range of image and performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs) and ancillary drugs have been the forerunners in the development of an underground user-led literature, online discussion forums, and were early adopters of internet-facilitated drug markets. Yet the impact of their self-experimentations extends well beyond the enhanced bodybuilding community, particularly in their use of ancillary drugs. Most significantly has been their role in the diffusion of various enhancement and psychoactive drugs to the wider population. Using the theoretical framework of the 'diffusion of innovation' we consider the role that pioneering enhanced bodybuilders have played in the diffusion of various enhancement and psychoactive drugs to the wider population through a focus on three substances –dinitrophenol (DNP), melanotan II and gamma-hydroxybtyrate (GHB). With an increasing range of drugs used by bodybuilders, coupled with an expansion in the use of online forums and online platforms to purchase pharmacological and new psychoactive drugs, we anticipate this trend of diffusion amongst the wider population will continue to flourish. Therefore, we highlight the need for policy makers to monitor emergent trends, not only in the general AAS population but particularly amongst enhanced bodybuilders.

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