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A SHOT IN THE DARK

Steroids …. IPEDs …. the hidden harm. World class speakers bring cutting edge knowledge to a hugely successful event.

Over 70 delegates from across the country gathered in Colchester to digest, discuss and debate the issues around the massive recent increase in the illegal use of IPEDs in society. Convened by Open Road’s SWEAT Team, the conference attracted representatives from across the public service spectrum, including Police forces, public health authorities, NHS trusts, universities and charities.

‘Thank you for a well organised conference and congratulations to all speakers and organisers, It was an enjoyable day - a lot of information relevant to our Force‘ 

Police delegate

Jody Leach, SWEAT Project Manager for Open Road said: ‘We launched the ‘SWEAT’ Project in 2017 in direct response to the growing number of steroid users accessing our needle exchange programmes across Essex. SWEAT stands for ‘Steroids, Weights, Education And Therapy’ and is funded from The Big Lottery. SWEAT is helping us tackle the increasingly complex needs of clients who use IPEDs. Through SWEAT we can reach those who are using, thinking about using, or have previously used IPEDs. We work alongside local gyms and pharmacies for needle exchange provision but we also ensure access to specialised psychosocial interventions, harm minimisation programmes and educational resources to dispel myths and promote understanding of the side effects and long-term harm of IPED use. 

Our conference brought together national and international experts in the field and I was delighted by the quality of discussion and expertise-sharing that took place. It will inform our formal evaluation of SWEAT which we’re doing in collaboration with the University of Essex and will hopefully extend the debate nationally.’ 

Our Conference Speakers

Open Road attracted leading academics and expert practitioners from the UK and Australia. Delegates heard about the use of steroids from a sports, image enhancing and treatment perspective.

A digest of Conference Speakers and a summary of their presentations are given below.

“Enthusiastic and engaging delivery. Jim gave a good, easy to understand explanation of different user types”

Jim McVeigh – Director:  Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University

Moral disengagement reflects the conditional endorsement of harmful behaviour through any of eight psychosocial mechanisms that weaken negative emotional reactions (e.g., guilt) normally experienced when engaging in such conduct. Research on moral disengagement and IPED use has proliferated over the past decade; the findings of such work suggest it may be central to our understanding of psychosocial factors that facilitate IPED use. This talk presented the findings from a range of studies conducted by our research group investigating this topic, including qualitative and quantitative work with body builders and team- and individual-sport athletes across a range of competitive standards.

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 “A great presentation with examples of problems emerging in youth sport”

“I hadn’t previously associated IPEDs or supplements with this age group – a real eye opener"

Susan Backhouse – Professor of Psychology & Behavioural Nutrition, Head of Centre for sports Performance, Leeds Beckett University

In this presentation, I highlighted that doping risk factors emerge from multiple contexts and interact to place individuals and groups at risk. Researchers and policy makers in public health are increasingly engaging with the idea that ‘whole systems’ can create the harms associated with complex chronic diseases. Appreciating the equivalent complexity of doping in sport and IPED use, I called for action to be taken on the dopogenicenvironment. The dopogenicenvironment is defined as the sum of influences produced by the surroundings, opportunities and conditions that promote doping. During the presentation, I considered these influences and the potentially powerful interactions between individuals, their social networks and the structures that direct how individuals live and take decisions.

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Ian Boardley, Researcher and Lecturer (IPEDs in sport, exercise and dance), University of Birmingham

Moral disengagement reflects the conditional endorsement of harmful behaviour through any of eight psychosocial mechanisms that weaken negative emotional reactions (e.g., guilt) normally experienced when engaging in such conduct. Research on moral disengagement and IPED use has proliferated over the past decade; the findings of such work suggest it may be central to our understanding of psychosocial factors that facilitate IPED use. This talk presented the findings from a range of studies conducted by our research group investigating this topic, including qualitative and quantitative work with body builders and team- and individual-sport athletes across a range of competitive standards.

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Katinka Van de Ven, University of New South Wales, Australiaand Kyle Mulrooney, University of New England, New South Wales, Australia– Co-founders of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales 

In 2015 Dr. Van de Ven and Dr. Mulrooney created the Human Enhancement Drugs Network (HEDN) to strengthen working relationships between academic sectors, governmental agencies, NGOs, users groups and others interested in human enhancement drugs. This includes six categories: muscle drugs, cognitive enhancers, sexual enhancers, weight-loss drugs, image enhancers, and mood and social behaviour enhancers. Ultimately, the HEDN aims to serve as a knowledge base for all things HEDs and, more importantly, to provoke critical discussions from a public health, sociological and criminological perspective. In this presentation, Dr. Mulrooney introduced the HEDN and examined how it may be used as a resource for the provision of evidence-based information, the sharing of knowledge and experiences, and collaboration more generally in this growing field. Dr. van de Ven then presented up-to-date research findings in the field of enhancement drugs and on the supply of steroids  - the different sources, the effect of poor quality substances and the encroachment of organised crime. 

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 “Dave was straight talking and to the point. A fascinating insight into the real world of IPED addictions.”

Dave Crosland – Croslands Harm Reduction Services. Former bodybuilder and former steroids user.

In his presentation, Dave looked at the social environment that is driving usage forward; the pill for any ill attitude that is prevalent within society today. He covered the lack of work ethic, the drug dependant culture that is reinforced by the medical profession, how the environment has created a quick fix attitude and the sense of entitlement that has developed over recent generations.Add to this the social pressure to look a certain way and how a bombardment of how you should look fuels people turning to IPEDs. Dave indicated how filters such as Photoshop and clever angles have given people unrealistic goals (fuelling further image insecurities) and how frustration, poor work ethic and instant societal demand are driving IPED use forward. He explained how dishonesty and denial amongst the user community gives the impression that life when using is perfect, which is in contradiction to the actual side effects of use which are in turn, creating life-long users.

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Panel discussion – featuring the SWEAT Project Team:

Gill Green
Professor of Medical Sociology, University of Essex

Dr. Sarah Senker
Director of ATD Research & Consultancy, University of Essex

Afka Ray
‘SWEAT’ Project Outreach Worker, Open Road

Jody Leach
‘SWEAT’ Project Manager , Open Road

The panel reiterated the important work of the SWEAT project and answered questions from the floor on the work carried out so far, early results, including measured outcomes, funding sources and research.

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