The injecting use of image and performance-enhancing drugs (IPED) in the general population: a systematic review

Rebekah Brennan, John S.G. Wells, Marie Claire Van Hout

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Injecting use of image and performance-enhancing drugs (IPED) in the general population is a public health concern. A wide and varied range of IPED are now easily accessible to all through the online market. A comprehensive literature review was undertaken according to Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) guidelines for systematic review, to identify the relevant literature. No date restrictions were placed on the database search in the case of human growth hormone melanotan I and II, and oil and cosmetic injectables. In the case of anabolic androgenic steroids search dates were restricted to January 2014–2015. Publications not in English and with a lack of specificity to the topic were excluded. The review yielded 133 relevant quantitative and qualitative papers, clinical trials, clinical case presentations and editorials/reports. Findings were examined/reviewed under emergent themes which identified/measured extent of use, user profiling, sourcing, product endorsement, risk behaviours and health outcomes in users. Motivation for IPED use may be grounded in appearance, pursuit of health and youth, and body image disturbance. IPED users can practice moderated use, with pathological use linked to high-risk behaviours, which may be normalised within IPED communities. Many IPED trajectories and pathways of use are not scientifically documented. Much of this information may be available online in IPED specific discussion forums, an underutilised setting for research, where uncensored discourse takes place among users. This review underscores the need for future internet and clinical research to investigate prevalence and patterns of injecting use, and to map health outcomes in IPED users. This paper provides community-based clinical practice and health promotion services with a detailed examination and analysis of the injecting use of IPED, highlighting the patterns of this public health issue. It serves to disseminate updated publication information to health and social policy makers and those in health service practice who are involved in harm reduction intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1459-1531
Number of pages73
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017


  • anabolic steroids
  • body image
  • community based health
  • image and performance enhancing
  • injecting drug use
  • internet
  • IPED
  • needle and syringe programs


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