Mrs Neha Ainsworth

Research project: The balancing act: How is risk experienced, navigated and perceived by PED users? A qualitative exploration


The current literature concerning performance-enhancing drug (PED) use is, broadly speaking, from a highly medicalised perspective. Limited research exists which delves into the lived experience within the context of PED use. Through the perspective of a Risk Society Model, this thesis focuses on the experience, perception and navigation of risks associated with performance-enhancing drug (PED) use using qualitative methods. Three empirical chapters are presented within this thesis. The broader results of this thesis demonstrate how PED-related risks are considered in a highly individualised manner. The types of risks expand far beyond the physical and the psychological; social risks such as stigmatisation are taken into consideration additionally. There is a calculated risk-benefit analysis, alongside an individual consideration of personal boundaries in terms of unacceptable risks. This expands to those, such as the doctor participants, who do not use PEDs but still encounter them within specific contexts. 


Neha Ainsworth is a final year PhD student who is currently writing up her thesis. Her research interests focus on the lived experience of performance-enhancing drug (PED) users. Her research utilises qualitative methods to understand the experience, perception and navigation of risks within the context of PED use. 


Ainsworth, N. P., Shelley, J., & Petróczi, A. (2018). Current Trends in Performance- and Image-Enhancing Substance Use Among Gym Goers, Exercisers, and Athletes. In O. Corazza & A. Roman-Urrestarazu (Eds.), Handbook of Novel Psychoactive Substances: What Clinicians Should Know about NPS. New York: Routledge.

Ainsworth, N. P., Vargo, E. J., & Petróczi, A. (2018). Being in control? A thematic content analysis of 14 in-depth interviews with 2, 4-dinitrophenol users. International Journal of Drug Policy, 52, 106–114.

Areas of research interest

  • Performance enhancing drug use
  • Lived Experience
  • Qualitative research
  • Harm Reduction


  • BA in Philosophy and Psychology, Heythrop College, University of London
  • MSc in Neuroscience, King's College, University of London

Funding or awards received

  • Kingston University Fully Funded PhD Studentship