Background There is a perception that the prevalence of anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) use is increasing in the UK, with consequent individual and public health risks. Nevertheless, there is a lack of real-time surveillance data to support the development of effective policy. This paper explores the potential of Google Trends to complement existing surveillance methods by analysing user generated search term data. Methods The Google Trends web tool was used to identify patterns of UK online interest in 15 AAS from January 2011 to December 2015, with 10 ultimately suitable for further analysis. Time series analysis was applied to the data. Results 10 steroids were ranked from most to least popular. All compounds had peaks in interest between April to July, potentially indicating a consumer driven desire to attain a desired physique in time for summer. Oral steroids were among the most searched for drugs which may have relevance for current service provision to steroid users. Conclusion Alternative data sources such Google Trends may provide useful additional information to supplement existing surveillance data. The limitations of this method however makes cautious interpretation and triangulation with other data sources essential.
- Anabolic–androgenic steroids
- Google Trends
- Performance and image enhancing
- Time series analysis