Criminalisation Prevents Steroid Users from Seeking Help

New research from Griffith University’s School of Applied Psychology has investigated the effect criminalisation of Anabolic—Androgenic Steroid (AAS) use has on users’ ability to seek help.

Interviewing male and female AAS users as well as general practitioners, needle and syringe harm reduction workers and harm reduction coordinators, the study looked at ways to better support those affected.

Dr Tim Piatkowski
Dr Tim Piatkowski

Research lead, Dr Tim Piatkowski said the criminalisation of AAS in Australia has led to a fear of legal consequences and stigmatisation, creating a complex environment for both AAS users and healthcare providers.

“It became apparent that the criminalisation component was really affecting choices around safer use for the study cohort,” he said.

“Healthcare providers and harm reduction coordinators all agreed it pushes AAS use further underground, which not only increases the risk of users engaging with criminal networks where they otherwise probably wouldn’t, but also removes them from medical care.

“People are scared to ask for help because of the law.”

In Queensland, the laws around steroids were changed in correlation with the VLAD laws (Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013) which were designed to disrupt and dismantle illegal activities of outlaw motorcycle clubs, meaning steroids are still aligned with other schedule one drugs including methamphetamine and heroin.

The research outcomes suggest that by destigmatising use and reclassifying AAS in a manner similar to that of the United Kingdom’s Class C framework, it is possible to encourage safer use, empower users to make informed choices, and foster a more compassionate and health-centred approach to AAS use in Australia.

“The first step is to acknowledge there is quite a large illicit substance consuming group in Australia,” Dr Piatkowski said.

“The next step is to think, how can we look after their health?

“By addressing these issues and re-evaluating current policies, we can promote a more health-centred approach and reduce harm associated with AAS use.”

The full research paper, Beyond the law: Exploring the impact of criminalising anabolic—androgenic steroid use on help-seeking and health outcomes in Australia is available for public access, providing valuable insights for policymakers, healthcare professionals and those interested in harm reduction strategies related to AAS use in Australia.

Also read: Dr Piatkowski’s Enlighten piece on “Shreddology: Body ideals, steroids and a path to health“.