BACKGROUND: A growing body of evidence suggests that anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS) are used globally by a diverse population with varying motivations. Evidence has increased greatly in recent years to support understanding of this form of substance use and the associated health harms, but there remains little evidence regarding interventions to support cessation and treat the consequences of use. In this scoping review, we identify and describe what is known about interventions that aim to support and achieve cessation of AAS, and treat and prevent associated health problems.
METHODS: A comprehensive search strategy was developed in four bibliographic databases, supported by an iterative citation searching process to identify eligible studies. Studies of any psychological or medical treatment interventions delivered in response to non-prescribed use of AAS or an associated harm in any setting were eligible.
RESULTS: In total, 109 eligible studies were identified, which included case reports representing a diverse range of disciplines and sources. Studies predominantly focussed on treatments for harms associated with AAS use, with scant evidence on interventions to support cessation of AAS use or responding to dependence. The types of conditions requiring treatment included psychiatric, neuroendocrine, hepatic, kidney, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and infectious. There was limited evidence of engagement with users or delivery of psychosocial interventions as part of treatment for any condition, and of harm reduction interventions initiated alongside, or following, treatment. Findings were limited throughout by the case report study designs and limited information was provided.
CONCLUSION: This scoping review indicates that while a range of case reports describe treatments provided to AAS users, there is scarce evidence on treating dependence, managing withdrawal, or initiating behaviour change in users in any settings. Evidence is urgently required to support the development of effective services for users and of evidence-based guidance and interventions to respond to users in a range of healthcare settings. More consistent reporting in articles of whether engagement or assessment relating to AAS was initiated, and publication within broader health- or drug-related journals, will support development of the evidence base.