Background: Reports of illicit substance use by college athletes have become commonplace in recent years, yet comparatively little effort has been put forth by the research community to understand these behaviors. Methods: Data for this study came from a large, national dataset collected by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). This study compared substance use behaviors of male undergraduate student athletes who reported using ergogenic performance enhancing substances (e.g., anabolic steroids and peptide hormones) during college (PES users) to those who did not (PES non-users). Results: A consistent pattern of higher substance use rates was observed among PES users compared to non-users, including heavier drinking, higher prevalence rates of cigarettes, marijuana, amphetamines, narcotics, and a variety of permissible and impermissible dietary supplements. An unexpected finding was that there were large discrepancies in reported prevalence rates between similar or overlapping survey items (e.g., past year use of "narcotics" versus "I have taken Vicodin, Oxycontin or Percocet with/without a prescription"). Conclusions: These findings suggest that male college athletes who use PES while in college demonstrate a general tendency to engage in alcohol and drug use behaviors, regardless of whether these behaviors improve or impede athletic performance. The results further suggest that college athletes may not fully appreciate drug categorizations that are commonly employed to gauge substance use behaviors. Changes to drug education and prevention programs may be needed to enhance understanding of drug properties and actions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Psychiatry and Mental health
- Pharmacology (medical)
- Student athlete