An increasing number of young males are turning to anabolic steroids to improve their physique with health risks including HIV infection rates equal to heroin users.
Estimates by the Crime Survey for England and Wales suggests there are almost 60,000 anabolic steroid users within the UK, but these figures are largely under-represented experts warn.
The drug which mimics the effects of testosterone and helps build muscle is known to be prevalent in gyms across the country with young males looking to improve their image.
Needle exchange clinics have given a more accurate estimation of use. “The number of users through the door has doubled in the last year,” said Nottingham Steroid Harm Reduction Specialist Ian Ranson.
“We’ve seen a shift in users from body-builders and bouncers to young males who just want to look good.”
University of West Scotland Professor, Julien Baker, describes needle exchange clinics in Scotland saying they have seen a 600% increase for steroid users in the last 10 years. “The real figure of users is in the hundreds and thousands,” he said.
The health implications are concerning and include a HIV infection rate of 1.5% among users, similar to heroin injectors, and growing rates of hepatitis B and C infection.
“People are using super-therapeutic doses, ten times, twenty times the strength used in clinical doses.”
jim mcveigh – STEROID EXPERT
Among growing health concerns are both the physical and mental side effects. As well as immediate issues such as aggression and high blood pressure, there are more long term problems such as liver damage, heart problems and even depression.
Users are taking higher doses for increasingly longer periods of time. “People are using super-therapeutic doses, ten times, twenty times the strength used in clinical doses and using for continuous periods,” said Jim McVeigh, Britain’s leading anabolic steroid expert.
“In the early nineties people would not stay on longer than six to eight weeks, now we have people who’ve been on for many years without coming off,” he added.
This can switch off natural biological levels of testosterone, potentially resulting in low libido, lethargy and depression, leading people to re-use the drug.
For many users, the psychological impact of use is particularly damaging. A steroid user who wished to remain anonymous described his experiences.
WARNING: CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES, VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED.
Video: Anonymous Anabolic Steroid User
The drug, officially known as Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids, remains a class C drug which makes it illegal to import and distribute.
Despite this experts say the drug is easy to find and can be purchased in gyms or online where black market versions of the drug are professionally packaged and distributed.
The prevalence of steroid use does spill over into sport where more than half the athletes are facing bans from from UK anti-doping in Rugby League and Union.
“I’ve known elite England players who have taken drugs at junior level and we find out because we’re friends. It has lead people to be more interested in taking steroids because it’s almost like a softener”, said England Dead Rugby player Sam Scadeng.
“Naturally we copy our idols, if an elite player is on drugs then why not, I can see why people do it”, he continued.