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Variability and dilemmas in harm reduction for anabolic steroid users in the UK: a multi-area interview study

Andreas Kimergård12* and Jim McVeigh2

Author Affiliations

1 Addictions Department, National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8BB, UK

2 Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University, Henry Cotton Campus, Level 2, 15-21 Webster Street, Liverpool L3 2ET, UK

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Harm Reduction Journal 2014, 11:19  doi:10.1186/1477-7517-11-19

Published: 2 July 2014



The UK continues to experience a rise in the number of anabolic steroid-using clients attending harm reduction services such as needle and syringe programmes.


The present study uses interviews conducted with harm reduction service providers as well as illicit users of anabolic steroids from different areas of England and Wales to explore harm reduction for this group of drug users, focussing on needle distribution policies and harm reduction interventions developed specifically for this population of drug users.


The article addresses the complexity of harm reduction service delivery, highlighting different models of needle distribution, such as peer-led distribution networks, as well as interventions available in steroid clinics, including liver function testing of anabolic steroid users. Aside from providing insights into the function of interventions available to steroid users, along with principles adopted by service providers, the study found significant tensions and dilemmas in policy implementation due to differing perspectives between service providers and service users relating to practices, risks and effective interventions.


The overarching finding of the study was the tremendous variability across harm reduction delivery sites in terms of available measures and mode of operation. Further research into the effectiveness of different policies directed towards people who use anabolic steroids is critical to the development of harm reduction.

Harm reduction; Needle and syringe programmes; Anabolic steroids