Heuristics of human enhancement risk: A little chemical help?

Rebekah Brennan, Marie Claire Van Hout, John Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Research underscores an emergent public health challenge due to the increasing use of human enhancement (HE) products for aesthetic purposes. Of particular interest is the injecting use of HE products, and the degree to which injecting of these products for muscle building, tanning and body site enhancement has entered into mainstream society. The aim of the research was to identify what is currently known about the injecting use of HE products within the context of public health concern. The findings provide a unique consumer profile of users, health consequences and sourcing mechanisms. Users do not identify as injecting drug users and are less informed about risks associated with the injecting of these unregulated products, potential for contamination and needle sharing. Cost-benefit forms of risk negotiation are grounded in inaccurate information via peer groups and online forums. We present a risk heuristics and public health discourse approach to understanding and addressing this concerning form of aesthetic enhancement grounded in the emphasis on appearance as the indicator of being healthy and attractive. We comment on the role of the Internet as driving force for availability and information retrieval, and offer suggestions for potential health educational approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-227
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Health Promotion and Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2013


  • growth hormones
  • human enhancement drugs
  • injecting drug use (IDU)
  • site enhancement oils
  • tanning agents


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