Prevalentie en effecten van prestatiebevorderende middelen in verschillende groepen: lessen voor een preventief en curatief beleid in België (PREVPED)

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The use of performance enhancing drugs (hereafter: PED) has changed from being a problem restricted to sports to one of public-health concern. People may use PED in order to improve their physical and/or mental performance. Today, there is evidence PED are used in several settings, such as amateur sports, prisons, work settings, student settings, etcetera.

A compelling body of research has sought to understand the prevalence, risk factors, and consequences of PED use across settings and populations. Besides methodological issues (e.g. self-reporting and under-reporting of alcohol and drug use), it is challenging to get an accurate overview regarding the actual patterns of PED use within different countries, demographic or occupational groups, due to the extent of non-prescribed use and internet sales (EU-OSHA, 2015). Several studies have described the characteristics of PED users. However, while few surveys have been performed in the general population, there are several surveys conducted in specific subgroups with elevated risk of PED use. While the correlates of PED use have been examined in specific risk groups such as adolescents, a significant proportion of lifetime PED users are above their age, and there is relatively little knowledge about the clinical correlates of PED use in the general population (cited from Hakansson et al, 2012). Furthermore, the effects of PED are contested and often unknown, for both short and long-term usage, including their addictive potential (EU-OSHA, 2018). While some studies show improvements in the performance of some cognitive tasks, the performance of others may be degraded. In addition, overdose may decrease functioning. Finally, the increasing use of performance enhancing drugs identifies ethical issues, such as the consequences on the societal level, that need attention and discussion from policymakers, both on the professional and on the governmental level (Schermer et al, 2009).

Therefore, the present study aims to analyse possible correlates/potential risk factors of PED use in the general population on the one hand, and aims to analyse effects and motivations of PED users in specific sub-settings. The following three sub-settings are put forward in this project: (1) work, (2) prison, and (3) sport.

Sub-setting work

Most people are spending a lot of time at workplaces. Therefore, there is a growing interest in the workplace as a setting in which to prevent harmful alcohol and other drug use (AOD). After all, the workplace is a structured context where the entire working population can be reached for health promotion initiatives and AOD interventions. Within this project, we want to explore in particular the use of PED in the Belgian work context. Workers might have different motives to use performance enhancing drugs: improving attention, focus, vigilance and speed of processing; enhancement in specific situations; work becomes easier; attainment of goals more easily, more energy and better mood for other interests, competitive edge at work, inability to do the work otherwise, and requirements for sleep become less. Muller stated that factors such as overcoming jet lag and improving focus and increasing motivation for performance or tasks over longer time periods are known reasons for taking drugs such as modafinil (Muller et al, 2013). In this study, we want to investigate the use of PED by Belgian workers, and regarding 2 specific sectors, i.e. ‘accomodation and food service’ and ‘professional transport’.

Sub-setting prison

Use of PED has been associated with adverse psychiatric effects, violent behaviour, and criminality. Quantitative studies suggest that there is a high rate of PED misuse among prisoners; but very little qualitative research has focused on the specific population of incarcerated offenders. Therefore, it is unknown if the motives for, and consequences of, use of PED are essentially the same in this specific population as for other groups of PED users. The aim of this study is to further investigate the motives for and consequences of PED use among prisoners.

Sub-setting sport

Although the accurate prevalence of PED in a sports context remains difficult to assess (de Hon, Kuipers & van Bottenburg, 2014; Petroczi et al., 2008), there is evidence that both athletes and recreational sportspeople use legal and illegal performance-enhancing drugs (Elbe & Pitsch, 2018; Whitaker, Long, Petroczi & Backhouse, 2012; Kanayama, Hudson & Pope, 2010; Simon, Striegel, Aust, Dietz & Ulrich, 2006). In particular, the use of AAS in fitness environments is increasingly considered a public health problem in various countries, and surveys examining the use of illicit drugs among gym-goers follow accordingly (Molero, Bakshi & Gripenberg, 2017; Mc Veigh et al, 2015). Whereas the short-term side-effects of AAS have been known for years (Hoffman & Ratamess, 2006), evidence of long-term health consequences are also beginning to accumulate (Pope et al., 2014; Turillazzi et al., 2011; Lumia & McGinnis, 2010). As a result, Belgian anti-doping agencies today increasingly target recreational gym-goers but, to date, no serious quantitative research has been yet conducted in Belgium about the prevalence of PED in a fitness context. Moreover, the willingness to enhance sports performance is not the only driver for the use of PED since recent research into the use of AAS in fitness environments has shown great variance in users’ approach to AAS use and more specifically to their approach to health risks and desired objectives (Christiansen, Schmidt Vinther & Liokaftos, 2017). Developing knowledge is therefore imperative in orientating preventive efforts among at-risk gym-goers. The present project and its focus on the sub-setting sport therefore intends to fill a gap in the existing literature. It also contributes to the development of an evidence-based policy.

With this project, we want to provide an answer to the following research questions (each research question relates to one Work Package):

1. What is the existing knowledge concerning PED in Belgium and elsewhere? (WP1)

1a. What is the prevalence of PED?

1b. What are the effects of PED on the physical and mental health of users?

2. What is the prevalence of the non-medical and/or illegal use of PED in Belgium? (WP2)

3. What are the motivations for using PED? (WP3)

4. What is the origin of the products found on the Belgian market? (WP4)

5. What is the existing care provision concerning PED in Belgium? (WP5)

5a. Are there any noticeable deficiencies?

5b. How should these deficiencies be tackled?

6. What are efficient means to sensitise users, prevention workers and care providers to this problematic with a view to enable better health measures? (




Universiteit Gent, vakgroep Criminologie, Strafrecht en Sociaal Recht, Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy (IRCP)
Prof. dr. Wim Hardyns

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Startdatum 01/02/2019
Einddatum 30/09/2019

Datum laatste wijziging: 08/08/2019
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