Drug Talk: PEDs or PIEDs?

The term “Performance-Enhancing Drugs” (“PEDs”) has typically been used to describe a variety of different substances, such as anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, stimulants and beta blockers, that provide an advantage in competitive sports. Sports anti-doping organizations like the U.S. Antidoping Agency use the term PEDs in discussing banned substances.[1] Most sports journalist have adopted the term PEDs.

However, in recent years, the acronym “PIEDs” has appeared in the lexicon of illicit drugs, the short form for “Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs and Substances.” The term PIEDs is starting to replace PEDs among authorities on the subject, especially within academic circles.[2] The terminology migration to PIEDs reflects a growing recognition that many substances thought by some to be confined to the world of competitive athletics are actually being used non-medically for purely cosmetic purposes – to appear leaner and more muscular for purely personal reasons and without any connection to competitive sports. In a 2006 survey of nearly 2,000 adult non-medical steroid users, 80% of respondents reported never playing competitive sports subsequent to initiation of steroid use.[3] For them, PIEDs is much more appropriate (or even the shorter “IEDs”).

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with an authority in the field of sports enhancement and discuss the subject. We had been part of a panel discussion of anabolic steroids and she had focused her remarks purely in the context of athletic cheating. Her condemnations of steroid use were essentially confined to the ethical problem of breaking the rules of competitive sports and she appeared to have given little consideration to any other motivation for use. The possibility that the vast majority of steroid users were not cheating athletes (using PEDs) but non-competing cosmetic users seeking a more muscular image/appearance had not occurred to her. She seemed genuinely shocked by the analogy of most steroid users to cosmetic medicine (e.g., Botox or fillers) patients – both groups are using pharmaceuticals for non-medical, aesthetic purposes (to feel better about how they look). Of course, because steroids are illegal for cosmetic purposes in the U.S. but Botox is not, those seeking bigger muscles are relegated to the black market while those seeking smoother foreheads can see a doctor. Perhaps even more curiously, those seeking more muscular body parts can retain surgeons to insert prosthetic implants to enlarge their chests, arms, calves, etc., with all the attendant and substantial health risks, but are legally forbidden in the U.S. from achieving the same ends through the medically supervised administration of anabolic steroids.

However you may come out on the policy of prohibition of anabolic steroids for non-medical reasons, the replacement of the term PEDs with PIEDs more accurately reflects their non-medical use and begins to uncouple these substances from the unethical conduct of sports doping. For legal questions surrounding anabolic steroids, and for the latest information regarding PEDs/PIEDs and the law, contact Rick Collins anytime at 516-294-0300, or email Rick at [email protected] .

[1] https://www.usada.org/substances/effects-of-performance-enhancing-drugs/

[2] https://books.google.com/books?id=h2JgDwAAQBAJ

[3] https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-4-12