PhD Studentship: A mixed-methods study of social workers working with people using un-prescribed Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS)

Bournemouth University - Faculty of Health & Social Sciences

Lead Supervisor name: Margarete Parrish

A recent MA dissertation on anabolic androgenic steroid (AAS) use reviewed the impact of AAS use, and highlighted significant physical and psychological/emotional risks linked to AAS use but a dearth of information in the social work literature about support and education for AAS users around the risks of their use. Evidence-based practice is central to social work practice and social workers have a responsibility to support service users to identify and manage risks and often work with people who have problematic substance use, making this an area of vital relevance for research and practice.

Whilst AAS use still represents a minority of substance use in the UK, it is easily available to purchase via the internet and “on the street”. Just under 60,000 16-59 year-olds used AAS (Home Office 2015). There has also been an increase in the number of AAS users accessing UK Needle Exchange Clinics.

Anecdotal evidence from AAS users who accessed the local harm minimisation needle exchange service did not see themselves as ‘stereotypical’ substance users despite regular intramuscular injections of AAS. Information from their harm minimisation lead indicates that some of the frequent AAS users came regularly not just to acquire clean needles, but also to discuss the implications of AAS use upon their moods and sexual relationships (Teale 2016).


  • To identify reasons for and risks of recreational AAS use through critically evaluating existing literature.
  • To consider the practice implications for social work and related inter-professional teams working in services being provided for AAS users.
  • To identify barriers AAS users encounter when accessing support services.
  • To identify effective pathways to share information on the short and long term physical and emotional health risks associated with using AAS, especially amongst young people and recreational users.
  • To explore whether any generic factors/risk factors contribute to the onset of AAS use.
  • To explore whether AAS use contributes to specific mood changes or behavioural problems.


The study will start with a review of the relevant literature on motivations for AAS use, the psychosocial consequences of usage, including perceived risks to self and others. The subsequent primary research will be using a questionnaire study with professional support workers (social workers, drug workers, etc.) and with service users to identify recreational AAS use, perceived problems and possible barriers to accessing support. 

What does the funded studentship include?

Funded candidates will receive a maintenance grant of £14,000 per annum (unless otherwise specified), to cover their living expenses and have their fees waived for 36 months. In addition, research costs, including field work and conference attendance, will be met.

Funded Studentships are open to both UK/EU and International students unless otherwise specified.

Closing date: The first call for applications will close on 15 December 2016.

For further information on how to apply click the ‘Apply’ button below or email

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South West England