"With the growing availability of AAS [Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids] through online platforms [71, 72] the traditional reliance on social networks and healthcare providers for access to injecting equipment and safer use information has diminished [7376]. This unregulated supply of AAS and other PIEDs from online sources is accompanied by misleading information regarding the benefits and risks associated with their use [13, 23], posing significant concerns. Given the potential harms of AAS use among the general population [14, 77], current evidence indicates the potential of their growing impact on the health of this substance cohort globally [78, 79]. Therefore, enhanced harm reduction measures are imperative to effectively engage with the increasing diversity of individuals currently engaged in AAS use [41, 80], particularly considering the potential for emerging dangers associated with the uptake of harsher AAS varieties [81]. Our data indicate that community pharmacies represent sites which can establish an enabling environment conducive to harm reduction for this group, and so we provide an immediate practical application of doing so drawn from our data.

"To enhance privacy and confidentiality, community pharmacies can utilise dedicated spaces more effectively, such as private counselling rooms, where AAS consumers can have confidential discussions with pharmacists [55, 82]. Increasing awareness among both pharmacists and consumers about these private spaces has been met with receptivity in relation to mental health [82] and licit substance use [59]. As trust is a crucial component in the pharmacist-consumer relationship, pharmacists have a professional responsibility to establish community pharmacies as ‘safe spaces’ where individuals feel comfortable discussing their health concerns, including AAS use. By adhering to the Code of Ethics, which prioritises the health and wellbeing of consumers [83], pharmacists should set aside judgments and create a non-judgmental environment that fosters open communication. However, our findings revealed a knowledge gap among pharmacists regarding these substances, highlighting the need for further training and education initiatives. Despite this gap, pharmacists demonstrated receptivity to learning and enhancing their understanding of AAS and other PIEDs, indicating a potential for improved engagement in harm reduction efforts within community pharmacy settings. Further research is needed to understand knowledge gaps, training needs, and the effectiveness of educational interventions for pharmacists in addressing AAS use. These efforts can contribute to fostering a conducive environment for harm reduction for AAS consumers, a necessity that demands immediate attention."

Source

Piatkowski T, Benn S, Ayurzana L, King M, McMillan S, Hattingh L. Exploring the role of community pharmacies as a harm reduction environment for anabolic-androgenic steroid consumers: triangulating the perspectives of consumers and pharmacists. Harm Reduct J. 2024;21(1):59. Published 2024 Mar 13. doi:10.1186/s12954-024-00972-5