Steroid users are unfairly stigmatized and often do not receive the medical care they deserve.
Australian physician Beng Eu is a general practitioner who has taken a special interest in helping bodybuilders who use non-prescribed anabolic steroids. He is concerned that this minority population is failing to receive adequate healthcare, if any type of healthcare at all, by the Australian medical community.
Most healthcare professionals have little contact with non-prescribed steroid users. This is partly due to the fact that steroid users account for only an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 individuals in Australia. But it may be largely due to steroid users’ fear of being stigmatized by healthcare workers.
The societal stereotypes of steroid users are not representative of most users.
Dr. Eu believes the medical community has largely overstated the harm caused by anabolic steroids. Most steroid users never seek medical attention because they never experience serious side effects.
The steroid users that do seek medical attention tend to be extreme users who encounter more problems. This leads to an over-representation of the adverse side effects by medical professionals.
“Most of our information about adverse effects of non-prescribed anabolic steroids use is from the other end, someone presents at hospital with terrible side effects and heart problems,’ he said.
“But from a general practice point of view, we’re more likely to see people using non-prescribed anabolic steroids who are actually quite well, and might not be using high doses so have a lower risk of getting the adverse effects.”
Dr. Eu believes wants to compile a more accurate cross-section of non-prescribed steroid users. Towards this goal, Dr. Eu has started a research project called ‘PUSH! The PIED users’ health audit’.
“So collecting [data on these patients] from general practice probably won’t highlight the really severe side effects, and we’ll have a much fairer view of people who use, not necessarily on the extreme scale.”
PUSH! is only recruiting medical doctors as the study participants. Participating doctors will provide Dr. Eu with medical information of steroid users under their care. The steroid user data will only shared with Dr. Eu if the patients gives their doctors their express written consent.
Dr. Eu hopes the project will achieve several objectives. First and foremost, he hopes the research will provide an accurate representation of the real-world steroid use. This will arm healthcare professionals with improved knowledge of this minority population.
In addition, Dr. Eu wants to encourage healthcare professionals to better engage with patients who they suspect may be using steroids. Dr. Eu believes steroid users are entitled to proper medical care. Therefore, it is important for doctors to have an open and honest dialogue regarding PIEDs with their patients.
Lyons, A. (August 15, 2019). Push to measure steroid use in general practice. Retrieved from 1.racgp.org.au/newsgp/clinical/push-to-measure-steroid-use-in-general-practice