The majority of non-medical anabolic-androgenic steroid users are not cheating athletes or risk-taking teenagers, according to a recent survey.
The typical male user, instead, is about 30 years old, well-educated and earning an above-average income in a white-collar occupation, according to the results of the survey, which are published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
The majority of men sampled said they did not use steroids during adolescence and were not motivated by athletic competition or sports performance.
The study, conducted by a number of researchers from around the country, used a Web-based survey of nearly 2,000 U.S. males.
Whereas athletes are tempted to take anabolic steroids to improve sports performance, the study suggested that physical self-improvement motivates the unrecognized majority of non-medical steroid users, who particularly want to increase muscle mass, strength and physical attractiveness.
Other significant but less highly ranked factors included increased confidence, decreased fat, improved mood and attraction of sexual partners, the survey found.
Although often considered similar to abusers of narcotics and other illicit drugs, non-medical steroid users are remarkably different, following carefully planned drug regimens in conjunction with a healthy diet, ancillary drugs and exercise.
As opposed to the spontaneous and haphazard approach seen in abusers of psychotropic drugs, everything is strategically planned to maximize benefits and minimize harm, the survey found.
"This is simply not a style or pattern of use we typically see when we examine substance abuse" said Dr. Jack Darkes, one of the study's authors and a faculty member of the department of psychology and the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Institute at the University of South Florida, Tampa.
Based on the results, the authors said that targeting at-risk teens and "cheating" athletes for steroid abuse is ineffective. The study concluded that a better group to target would be professional men who are driven, ambitious and dedicated to gym attendance, diet, occupational goals and educational attainment.