December 14, 2020

All about Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs (PIEDs)

As we head into the summer months, there are those in our communities that will contemplate using PIED substances to improve their body image. Below are some facts worth thinking about before making the decision to commence using PIEDs.

What are PIEDs?

  • Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs
  • Examples include steroids, peptides, and hormones


What are Steroids?

Steroids are synthetic substances that are very similar to the hormone testosterone. Many doctors prescribe steroids to treat a number of health problems (but steroids are not prescribed to young and healthy people hoping to gain muscle).

Without a prescription, Steroids are illegal!

Steroids are often referred to as anabolic or androgenic substances.

  • Anabolic – promotes growth of skeletal muscle. Anabolic steroids are used by ingesting pills or by injection into skeletal muscle.
  • Androgenic – includes testosterone and androgen for development of muscle mass as well being responsible for body hair (and balding), libido and sexual arousal.

Most people acquire steroids through the black market, which can be from mail-order catalogues, the internet and drug dealers. The problem with buying them from the black market, is that:-

  • They are illegal
  • The quality of the substances are not protected. Many times, individuals who purchase steroids through the black market end up getting substances such as horse testosterone, water with dyes and sugar pills, which impose serious health risks to potential users.


What are Peptides?

Peptides are, in essence, the building blocks that create protein. Peptides are used for their anabolic effect on an athlete’s muscle mass and will help the muscle or soft tissue in the rebuilding and healing process after injury.


Possible side-effects of steroids and peptides

  • Acne
  • Excess sweating/ Night sweats
  • Rapid heart-rate
  • Heart disease – because Steroids raise the “bad” cholesterol, blood vessels can be damaged, increasing the risk of coronary arterial disease.
  • Anxiety
  • Loss of libido and erectile dysfunction
  • Reduced sperm count
  • Baldness
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Testicular atrophy – shrinking of the testicles is a possible side-effect of using steroids. Quitting using steroids can usually reverse the shrinking but not always.
  • Gynecomastia – The formation of breast tissue. Severity can vary from person to person but there is no other way to reverse this condition other than surgery.
  • Deepening of the voice
  • Clitoral enlargement
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Increased facial and body hair
  • Menstrual periods can be disrupted
  • Steroids can close off growth plates in younger people, stunting growth.
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • Trembling
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Bad breath
  • Reduction HDL (good cholesterol)
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia


What is Melanotan?

Melanotan is a chemical similar to a hormone found in the body, and is commonly used for skin tanning. It is administered via injection into the subcutaneous tissue in the stomach.

Potential side effects:

  • Darkening of the skin
  • Increased moles and freckles
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Flushing of the face
  • Involuntary stretching and yawning
  • And finally, spontaneous erections.


Know the facts:

There is so much information available that may or may not be accurate. While most people who use PIEDs want to get it right, a lot of the information is through word of mouth and the internet and this can be incorrect. It pays to do your own research and if in doubt, discuss it with an understanding GP, or other health professionals, such as Kay Stanton (Steroids Outreach worker) based in Victoria – 24-hour hotline – 0417 529 678.

Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)

Body Dysmorphia is where a person’s concern with body image manifests as a preoccupation with a perceived defect of their physical appearance. In addition, Muscle Dysmorphia has been included as a diagnosis with BDD, which reflects a preoccupation with becoming more muscular.

People with BDD have a belief or vision of themselves that is greatly distorted towards the negative. People with BDD who use PIEDs to ‘improve’ their appearance, may perceive of themselves to be much skinnier or less-defined than they actually are, and to them, this is not a good thing.

If you have concerns, it is important to contact a health professional to discuss your situation.

The Anxiety Disorders Clinic in Darlinghurst is a specialist clinic that provides assessment and treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

ACON’s Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) has pre-made steroid packs that you can pick up with everything you need in them.


Image: Samuel Girven