What is it about?

The use of human enhancement drugs in bodybuilding is well established. However, while anabolic androgenic steroids have been a constant in the development of lean muscle many other drugs have been added to the repertoire of substances of the years. Some of these drugs e.g. dinitrophenol (DNP), melanotan II and gamma-hydroxybtyrate (GHB) have subsequently diffused to the wider population, in some case with dire consequences. This paper highlights how the monitoring of drugs used within elite bodybuilding may act as an early warning for drug use trends in the wider population.

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Why is it important?

Getting ahead of the curve in relation to the use of potentially dangerous drugs within the general population is essential for the development of effective prevention and harm reduction interventions. Here we illustrate how dangerous practices of drug use within the general population can be traced back to drug use practices within bodybuilding. With the internet as a central source of (mis)information on drugs relatively benign practices within on section of the population can diffuse to another group resulting in harms including fatalities. An early warning system providing intelligence to inform policy and practice may prevent future adverse consequences.


The paper illustrates the dynamic nature of substance use and the varying risks in different populations. It also highlights how public health surveillance can be used as a proactive mechanism to inform effective interventions as well as its more traditional passive function of recording and reporting.

Jim McVeigh
Manchester Metropolitan University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A sentinel population: The public health benefits of monitoring enhanced body builders, International Journal of Drug Policy, September 2020, Elsevier, DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102890.
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