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BACKGROUND: The use of anabolic-androgenic steroids has increased among gym-goers, and it has been proposed that this may be part of a polysubstance use pattern that includes the use of illicit drugs. Still, epidemiological data on illicit drug use among gym-goers of both genders are meager. The aim of the present study was thus to examine the use of illicit drugs and its correlates in a large sample of men and women who engaged in weight training at gyms across Sweden. METHODS: In this cross-sectional study, a total of 1969 gym-goers who engaged in weight training in 54 gyms across Sweden were invited to fill in a questionnaire. The questionnaire included 25 items on background variables, weight training frequency, use of illicit drugs and doping substances, and non-medical use of benzodiazepines. RESULTS: Of the gym-goers, 19.6% reported having ever used illicit drugs, 6.5% reported use during the past 12 months, and 2.1% during the past 30 days. The most commonly used drug was cannabis, followed by cocaine, amphetamine, and ecstasy. Almost 40% of those who reported drug use had used more than one drug. Male participants and participants between 20 and 39 years of age made up the majority of users. Furthermore, 5.1% of the reported drug users had ever used a doping substance. There was an almost threefold higher odds (OR = 2.99, 95% CI = 1.16-7.66, p < 0.023) of doping use among people who had reported drug use as compared to non-users. CONCLUSIONS: Training at gyms is typically considered a health-promoting behavior. However, our results revealed a slightly higher prevalence of illicit drug use among gym attendees as compared to the general population. Our findings may have captured an underrecognized group of young adult males who engage in weightlifting and use illicit drugs recreationally and/or as training aids. Developing knowledge is imperative in orientating preventive efforts among at-risk gym-goers. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ISRCTN11655041.

Original publication




Journal article


Sports Med Open

Publication Date





Anabolic-androgenic steroids, Cross-sectional study, Drug prevalence, Gym-goers, Illicit drug use