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The use of human enhancement drugs among LGBT people: characterising the extent and nature of use in the UK

Public Health Institute

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Prof V D Hope , Mr J McVeigh Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The use of drugs for human enhancement is a diverse and long-standing phenomenon. Drugs can be used to enhance human appearance, performance and functioning; with specific uses including changing appearance, stimulating creativity and improving social functioning.[1] The category of enhancement drugs most commonly studied is that of musculature enhancement, particularly use within sport, including bodybuilding, and latterly, within the general population where use is for purely aesthetic purposes.[1,2]
The use of enhancement drugs among lesbian, gay, bisexual & trans (LGBT) communities has not be widely studied. In the UK, a number of studies in the late 1990s examined the use of anabolic androgenic steroids among men who have sex with men (MSM),[3] and more recently studies have looked at the use of drugs for sexual enhancement.[4,5,6] Recent UK data (currently unpublished) indicates that enhancement drug use among LGBT communities in the UK may be common and varied. This may reflect broader society, where there are suggestions that the illicit use of substances for enhancement purposes may have become more widespread.[7] Psychoactive drug use is reported more often among LGBT communities than among other groups,[8] and it can also take specific forms. Therefore, it is possible there are distinct patterns of enhancement drug use among LGBT communities.
This PhD would take public health perspective, with a focus on informing responses to reduce risks and harms. It would first gather data to describe the extent and patterns of enhancement drug use among LGBT people living in the UK. It would then, among one or more LGBT population group, explore the factors associated with the use of enhancement drugs, assess the context and motivations for their use, and examine risks and harms related to their use. The research would involve a mixed methods approach, including literature reviewing, quantitative survey(s), and qualitative data collection.


1. Evans-Brown, M., McVeigh, J., Perkins, C., & Bellis, M. A. Human enhancement drugs: the emerging challenges to public health. Centre for Public Health, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, 2012.
2. Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs. Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs: Consideration of the anabolic steroids. Home Office, London, 2010.
3. Bolding, G., Sherr, L., & Elford, J. Use of anabolic steroids and associated health risks among gay men attending London gyms. Addiction, 2002; 97(2), 195-203.
4. Hibbert MP, Brett CE, Porcellato LA, Hope VD. Psychosocial and sexual characteristics associated with sexualised drug use and chemsex among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the UK. Sex Transm Infect. 2019;95(5):342-350
5. Desai M, Bourne A, Hope V, Halkitis PN. Sexualised drug use: LGTB communities and beyond. Int J Drug Policy. 2018;55:128-130.
6. Hibbert MP, Porcellato LA, Brett CE, Hope VD. Associations with drug use and sexualised drug use among women who have sex with women (WSW) in the UK: Findings from the LGBT Sex and Lifestyles Survey. Int J Drug Policy. 2019 Jul 26. pii: S0955-3959(19)30220-8.
7. McVeigh J, Evans-Brown M, Bellis MA. Human enhancement drugs and the pursuit of perfection. Adicciones. 2012;24(3):185-90.
8. Drug misuse: Findings from the 2013/14 crime survey for England and Wales. Home Office, London, 2014.

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