January 28, 2023

Steroid addiction has increased tenfold in the last decade and specialists say the UK is “sleepwalking towards a health crisis”.

Half a million people, mostly young men, are addicted to physical enhancers, according to experts at Priory Mental Health Services. They say social media and reality shows push them to pursue unrealistic body goals.

Anabolic steroids are classified as class C drugs, which means they can only be obtained by prescription, but they are easily available illegally online or through social media.

Half a million people, mostly young men, are addicted to physical enhancers, according to experts at Priory Mental Health Services. Pictured above is personal trainer and author James Smith in 2022 after coming off steroids.

what are anabolic steroids?

Anabolic steroids are a manufactured drug that mimics the effects of the hormone testosterone.

They are usually prescription drugs. When taken to increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance without medical advice, they can be addictive and have serious side effects.

Side effects for men may include: reduced sperm count, infertility, shrunken testicles, erectile dysfunction, hair loss, breast development, increased risk of prostate cancer, severe acne, stomach pain.

Steroids can also cause aggression, mood swings, paranoia, manic behavior, hallucinations, and delusions.

People who use anabolic steroids may crave them and experience side effects if they stop taking them.

Withdrawal symptoms may include: depression and apathy, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, anorexia, decreased sexual desire, fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain.

Source: NHS

Dr William Shanahan, clinical director of addiction at Priory’s Roehampton Hospital, said many users are unaware of risks ranging from “increased anxiety levels, depression” to “erectile dysfunction and fertility problems…prostate cancer and much more”.

He said: “Ten years ago there were an estimated 50,000 users of image and performance-enhancing drugs in the UK, but we suspect this number may now be exceeding 500,000.”

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There is concern that young men may take steroids to try to emulate the bodies they see in Love Island, a new series that began this week.

Contestants on the show have openly admitted to taking the drugs before.

Last year, a well-known former contestant on the show, Tom Powell, called steroids his ‘poison’ and decided not to stop taking them despite needing breast reduction surgery as a result.

More than 90 percent of anabolic steroid users are men, according to a 2016 IPEDinfo national survey, but Dr. Shanahan says poor data makes it difficult to know exactly how many there are.

Previous estimates from crime statistics and the UK’s anti-doping agency have ranged from 302,000 to 1 million steroid users.

He said: “My fear is that we are sleepwalking into a health crisis, especially for young men.”

Steroid use is rampant on social media with users posting before and after photos and sharing tips on where to buy the drugs and how to use them.

On TikTok, videos with the hashtag ‘steroids’ have 307.8 million views, while #steroidtransformation has 52.9 million views.

Dr. David McLaughlan, Priory’s consultant psychiatrist and co-founder of Jitai, an app that helps people quit or reduce alcohol use, said the videos are “distorting” the body images of ordinary men.

He said: “Men sit at home in the UK and view the world through this distorted lens… These guys of average build think they are unusually small and skinny.”

A video on TikTok, shared by arnoldsteroids2, shows followers before and after photos of men on steroids, followed by shots of injectable testosterone and a voiceover urging them to “go beyond the limit” in their quest for the perfect physique.

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The comments below the video ask ‘where can I get the UK’ and ‘what is a good online store to get it from’.

A Google search for “anabolic steroids for sale in the UK” returns pages of shops offering “anabolic steroids and growth hormones for sale at the best prices”.

Personal Trainer And Author, James Smith (Above), Pictured In 2015 While On Steroids

Personal trainer and author, James Smith (above), pictured in 2015 while on steroids

Medicines watchdog MHRA deputy director of compliance Andy Morling said: “The illegal trade in medicines online is undoubtedly significant. Although identifying the precise scale of Internet provision is challenging, illegal commercial web pages are likely to number in the thousands, possibly tens of thousands worldwide.’

He added that global supply routes are complex, but they know what products are imported from South Asia and Central and Eastern Europe.

Kids as young as 16 are starting to take steroids. Personal trainer and author James Smith said, “Kids are still out of puberty and on (steroids), because they want to be Instagram famous, they want big YouTube channels.” They want a large following on TikTok to impress the 6th grade girls.

A TikTok account called Brinsbit with nearly 12,000 followers shares photos of her steroid transformation. One of the videos is captioned ‘If you’re being bullied, be the better person! Of course when I say bigger I mean more muscular and anabolic lol.

Bosworth MP Dr Luke Evans said the situation is “deeply worrying”. He added: “Images of men with bodybuilder physiques are rampant online, which only encourages others to take the next step to ‘try to fit’ and experiment with steroids and similar products.”

“In my role as a GP before I became an MP… It was common to see patients coming in asking how they could ‘pump up the volume’.”

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When The Daily Mail contacted TikTok, they removed the videos for violating their community guidelines.

A TikTok spokesperson said: ‘The safety and well-being of our community is a top priority.

“Our Community Guidelines are clear that we do not allow the depiction, promotion, or trading of controlled substances, including anabolic steroids, on TikTok.

“We will take appropriate action against any violation of these guidelines, including removing videos and banning accounts.”

A government spokesperson said: ‘Drugs ruin lives and devastate communities, which is why we are committed to addressing both drug supply and demand, as set out in our 10-year Drug Strategy.

“Anabolic steroids are a Schedule C drug due to the physical and psychological harm they cause, and any company listed in the online safety bill must take steps to prevent criminal activity related to them.”

Men who abuse steroids can be left with low sex drive, poor erections, and low sperm count for YEARS

Taking anabolic steroids for muscle building can leave men with long-lasting impaired testicular function for years, a 2021 study revealed.

Researchers in Copenhagen, Denmark, tracked a biomarker of testicular function in the blood of current and former users of anabolic steroids.

The lowest levels of the biomarker were detected in men who were using anabolic steroids at the time of the blood test, but previous users, who had not taken anabolic steroids for an average of 32 months, also had lower levels of the marker.

The biomarker is produced by cells in the testicles that also produce testosterone, indicating that anabolic steroids “persistently reduce their capacity.”

Low testosterone can lead to reduced sex drive, poor erections, and low sperm count.