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Health Educ Res. 2007 Dec;22(6):854-63. Epub 2007 Jun 21.

Social capital: implications from an investigation of illegal anabolic steroid networks.

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Western Australian Centre for Health Promotion Research, School of Public Health, National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia 6845, Australia.


Numerous studies have linked the constructs of social capital with behaviours that are health enhancing. The factors of social trust, social cohesion, sense of belonging, civic involvement, volunteer activity, social engagement and social reciprocity are all associated with social capital and their existence is often linked with communities or settings where health enhancement is high. Utilizing an interpretive perspective, this paper demonstrates how the existence of social capital may enhance the transition into drug use, the experience of using an illegal drug and decrease the risk of detection. It highlights how social capital may contribute to behaviours which are not health enhancing. Using a variety of data, including participant observation of 147 male anabolic steroid users and 98 semi-structured in-depth interviews with male anabolic steroid users, dealers and distributors it was found that social capital facilitated the operation of the illegal anabolic steroid distribution network. The subcultural norms and social trust that existed within the network allowed anabolic steroid dealers to sell the drug to others with reduced risk of detection. It is argued that social capital facilitates the distribution of illegal anabolic steroids and that social capital is a non-discriminatory concept, that may enhance both negative and positive health-related behaviours.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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