Quarter of juicing bodybuilders use growth hormone

Just over a quarter of strength athletes who use anabolic steroids also use growth hormone, write psychiatrists at Harvard Medical School in the American Journal on Addictions. Interestingly, the psychiatrists believe that growth hormone users are more often addicted to steroids or drugs than steroids users who don’t use growth hormone.

Growth hormone is still expensive, but not as expensive as it was in the eighties. So you’d expect that its use would have increased among steroids users. In 2006 British researchers estimated that of all steroids users in local fitness centres about a quarter were using growth hormone, and that use of the substance was on the increase. [Eur J Intern Med. 2006 Nov;17(7):479-84.]

In 2009 a Swedish study appeared that went a step further [Eur Addict Res. 2009; 15(2): 99-106.], suggesting that half of a group of steroids users studied used growth hormone. Exaggerated? Maybe. The subjects were 32 users who were being treated in a clinic for addiction problems. So it was a small study, and the subjects were not representative of strength athletes in general.

The American psychiatrists wanted to gather more precise data, so they took their research sample from bodybuilders, power lifters and athletes from other circles where steroids use is common. The psychiatrists are doing research on the factors that encourage the use of steroids.

For this study they used data on 231 men aged 18-40. Of these subjects 43 percent used anabolic steroids. Just over a quarter of the steroids users – 27 percent – also took growth hormone.

All growth hormone users also took anabolic steroids. So there were no growth hormone users who did not use steroids. Of the growth hormone users, 6 also used IGF-1. There was only 1 IGF-1 user who didn’t use growth hormone. The doses that the growth hormone and IGF-1 users said they mostly used were 15-20 IE or 50-75 micrograms per week.

About a third of the steroids users in the study were ‘addicted to anabolic steroids’. The psychiatrists are convinced that steroids are addictive, and even managed to get an entry to this effect added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders a few years ago. [Am J Psychiatry. 2009 Jun; 166(6): 642-5.] Below you can see a list of the characteristics that are supposed to be indicative of steroid addiction. Click for a bigger figure.

Don’t take too much notice of this. Many psychiatrists, and especially psychiatrists who work with real addicts, think it’s rubbish.



So about eighty percent of GH users are addicted to steroids, according to the American psychiatrists.

Growth hormone is probably effective, the researchers discovered: the growth hormone users had more lean body mass than those who used steroids only. Their FFMI was higher, as the table below shows. The table also shows that the chance of becoming addicted to substances – steroids but also recreational drugs – was a factor 5.6 higher among growth hormone users than among natural athletes. Part of the table is reproduced below. Click on the table for the full figure


A high income doesn’t increase the likelihood of growth hormone use, the researchers’ data show, which says something about the price of growth hormone.

“Our preliminary observations suggest that illicit HGH abuse has become common among young American male weightlifters, and is often associated with polysubstance abuse, embracing both performance-enhancing and classical drugs”, the psychiatrists sum up. “With the declining price and greater availability of HGH, future years may see even larger numbers of users, ingesting HGH for even longer periods at higher doses.”

Human growth hormone abuse in male weightlifters.

Brennan BP, Kanayama G, Hudson JI, Pope HG Jr.


Biological Psychiatry Laboratory, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts 02478, USA. bbrennan@partners.org


In a study of performance-enhancing substance use among 231 experienced young male weightlifters, we found that 27 (12%) reported illicit use of human growth hormone (HGH) or its bioactive derivative, insulin-like growth factor-1. All of these 27 men also reported use of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) and 22 (81%) met criteria for current or past AAS dependence. Fifteen (56%) also reported current or past dependence on opioids, cocaine, and/or ecstasy. These findings suggest that among young male weightlifters, illicit HGH use has become a common form of substance abuse, frequently associated with both AAS dependence and classical substance dependence. 

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry.

PMID: 21175915 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] PMCID: PMC3104052

Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21175915