National Drug Strategy
National Drug Strategy

Australian secondary school students' use of tobacco, alcohol, and over-the-counter and illicit substances in 2011

5.7 Steroids

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Table 5.15 shows the proportion of students using steroids without a doctor’s prescription in an attempt to improve sporting ability, increase muscle size or improve appearance, over lifetime, past year and past month by age and gender.

Table 5.15: Steroids: Percentage of students in each age and gender group reporting use of steroids without a doctor’s prescription in an attempt to improve sporting ability, increase muscle size or improve appearance, by age and gender, Australia, 2011#

Never used
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
98.1
97.7
97.9
96.9
97.7
97.2
97.6
Females
97.6
98.0
98.4
99.0
98.7
99.2
98.5
Total
97.9
97.8
98.1
98.0
98.2
98.2
98.0
Ever used
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
1.9
2.3
2.1
3.1
2.3
2.8
2.4
Females
2.4
2.0
1.6
1.0
1.3
0.8
1.5
Total
2.1
2.2
1.9
2.0
1.8
1.8
2.0
Past year
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
0.9
1.7
1.5
2.2
2.0
2.4
1.8
Females
1.8
1.4
1.0
0.7
0.9
0.5
1.1
Total
1.4
1.5
1.3
1.5
1.4
1.4
1.4
Past month
12 yrs
(%)
13 yrs
(%)
14 yrs
(%)
15 yrs
(%)
16 yrs
(%)
17 yrs
(%)
Total
(%)
Males
0.6
1.1
1.2
0.8
1.3
1.8
1.1
Females
0.3
0.9
0.4
0.5
0.7
0.1
0.5
Total
0.4
1.0
0.8
0.6
1.0
0.9
0.8

# Prevalence estimates are within  3.3% of the true population values (see section 2.6). See Appendix 4 for 95% Confidence interval estimates for different proportions for each age and gender group.

The use of steroids without a prescription among secondary school students was very low, and when data were combined across males and females there was no association with age for lifetime use, use in the past year or use in the past month. Both use in the past year and use in the past month were relatively stable at between 0.4–1.5% across the six age groups. Only one per cent of students across all age groups reported that they had used steroids without a prescription in the month before the survey.

From the age of 15, more males than females reported the use of steroids in their lifetime and in the past year. Past month use of steroids was significantly higher among males than females at ages 14 and 17.

Regularity of use: Among the one per cent of students who had used steroids in the year before the survey, use was infrequent. Among males, 45% had used this substance only once or twice, while among females, 51% had only used them once or twice.

5.7.1 Changes in the prevalence of steroid use between 2005 and 2011

There was little change in the proportions of younger and older students using steroids in their lifetime between 2005 and 2011. The proportion of 12- to 15- year-olds and 16- to 17-year-olds using steroids at some time in their life had not changed significantly between 2008 and 2011. However the proportion of 12- to 15-year-olds using steroids in the past month in 2011 was significantly lower than the proportions found in 2008 and 2005. There was no change in the proportion of 16- to 17-year-old students indicating they had used steroids in the month prior to the survey between 2005 and 2011. When data were combined across the 12 to 17-year-olds, the 2011 proportion for lifetime use was significantly lower than the proportions found in 2005 (p<0.01) but not 2008. The proportion of students reporting to have used steroids in the past month in 2011 was significantly lower than the proportions found in both 2008 (p<0.01) and 2005 (p<0.01). These changes were driven by changes among male students as there was no change in the proportion of female students reporting the use of steroids.

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