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Doctors stigmatise steroids users

On online forums for steroids users, experiences with doctors are disappointing. Doctors not only know little about steroids, but are also likely to express their negative opinion of users, say most forum visitors. According to psychologists at the State University of New Jersey, the juice heads are not just making this up. They published the results of a study in Body Image, which shows that doctors do indeed stigmatise steroids users.

The researchers got 148 doctors to read four pieces of text, in which they presented four different versions of Mark. The first version was 'No Problem Mark'.

Doctors stigmatise steroids users

The other three texts started off in exactly the same way, as shown above, but each one ended with an extra sentence. In one case that was: When Mark feels particularly stressed, he admits to compulsively bingeing on several types of fast foods. The day after a bingeing episode, Mark will exercise for a longer period of time in order to burn off the extra calories gained from the bingeing.

Another text ended with: Mark admits to using cocaine once a week.

And the final sentence in the last text went: Mark admits to using anabolic steroids intermittently throughout the year.

Then the psychologists asked the doctors to estimate the psychological makeup of the four Marks. Would they be willing to seek help? Were they industrious or lazy? Honest or dishonest? Did they have willpower or were they weak? Moral or immoral? Friendly or unfriendly? Optimistic or pessimistic? Successful or unsuccessful? Brave or cowardly?

The doctors had a more negative opinion of both Eating Disorder Mark and Steroids Mark than of No Problem Mark. Interestingly, the doctors' view of Cocaine Mark was only a little different from their opinion of No Problem Mark.

Doctors stigmatise steroids users

"The existence and persistence of negative perceptions of individuals who use and abuse AAS have several implications", wrote the psychologists. "Stigma by health care professionals may further delay and/or reduce individuals' health care seeking, which may in turn exacerbate the physical and psychological problems AAS users experience."

"Delay in health care seeking may also mean that other risky behavior associated with AAS use, such as other drug use goes undetected and untreated, leading to additional physical and psychological problems."

Body Image. 2015 Sep;15:49-53.

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