Investigating the impact of COVID-19 on performance and image enhancing drug use

Matthew Dunn, Timothy Piatkowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Emerging research has suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic has had some impact on substance use patterns. The aim of the study was to conduct a rapid survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on performance and image enhancing drug (PIED) use and training, and any subsequent negative physical or mental health outcomes. Methods: During 2020, a convenience sample of 60 PIED consumers (mean age = 26.69; 68.3% located outside Australia) completed a quantitative anonymous online survey exploring how the coronavirus pandemic impacted patterns of PIED use and associated exercise habits. The survey was administered via the Qualtrics platform and distributed online through PIED forums as well as through the investigators’ networks. Participants were asked about their PIED use and exercise habits prior to and during restricted movement ‘lockdowns’. Results: During pre-COVID, the majority of the sample opted to ‘blast-cruise’ (an initial high dose, followed by a lower maintenance dose; 71.7%, n = 43). During lockdown, 45% (n = 27) reported a change in PIED use as a result of the restrictions. In light of health concerns during COVID-19, a majority of men (60%, n = 36) did not take any extra precautions relating to their PIED use. A subgroup of men ceased using PIEDs completely (16.7%, n = 10) with the majority (80%, n = 8) of that subgroup following post-cycle therapy (PCT) of some kind. Only a small proportion of the sample reported negative mental health issues as a result of PCT access issues. Conclusions: This study contributes to the emerging literature of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on substance use, specifically PIED use among men. The results suggest that the pandemic did influence the choice of PIEDs that participants consumed, although there was little disruption to patterns of exercise, an important aspect of PIED use. Of the men who did cease use completely, the majority reported little issue with PCT access; those who reported difficulty accessing PCT compounds indicated experience some mental health concerns related to ceasing their PIED use. Clinicians and those who come into contact with this group should be alert for any negative physical or mental health concerns resulting from disrupted or ceased PIED use.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
JournalHarm Reduction Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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