Body image conscious young men are increasingly injecting steroids to bulk-up for the summer

BODY image conscious young men in WA are increasingly injecting steroids to chemically bulk-up for the summer and music festivals.

A decade ago virtually all users of steroids at Perth’s biggest needle exchange program were men seeking performance enhancement, according to the WA Substance Users Association.

While some are using drugs to boost performance or treat injuries, most are young men, typically in their 20s, who are using for “image enhancement”.

The majority are employed, have little knowledge about the drugs they are injecting and don’t consider themselves illicit drug users. Most buy the drugs from overseas websites.

WASUA outreach co-­ordinator Paul Dessauer said they included fly-in, fly-out workers and students, as well as athletes and labourers.

Mike O'Mara, head of the International Federation of Bodybuilding WA, gym owner and former professional bodybuil...

Mike O’Mara, head of the International Federation of Bodybuilding WA, gym owner and former professional bodybuilder, and his professional bodybuilder wife Daniela.

They are injecting a wide range of steroids, as well as human growth hormone, insulin, peptides and the illegal tanning injection melanothan.

“Anecdotally we have noticed an increase each year in the lead-up to summer, apparently in preparation for summertime social activities and the music festival season,” Mr Dessauer said.

PerthNow this week revealed two needle exchange programs in Perth had recorded a sharp rise in the number of clients using performance and image-enhancement drugs.

WASUA employs a PIEDs project officer to educate users about side-effects and to reduce the risk of blood-borne viruses. An inter-agency Steroids Steering Group has also been formed.

Mr Dessauer said it appeared small groups of friends often started experimenting with PIEDs together and the behaviour was “normalised”.

He likened it to the way collagen and Botox injections had been normalised among some young women.

Associate Prof David Mountain, Australian Medical Association WA past president, said side effects included violent mood swings, shrunken testicles, acne and hair loss.

The emergency department doctor said steroid users intoxicated with alcohol or other illicit drugs could pose a threat to the people around them, including police.

“They are big units who are much harder to handle,” he said. “There’s no doubt that somebody who is already muscular and aggressive, and then amped-up on amphetamines, is a very bad combination for anybody who has to deal with them.”

International Federation of Bodybuilders WA director Mike O’Mara, who runs O’Mara Fitness Centre in East Perth, said bodybuilding was drug-free and complies with International Olympic Committee regulations.

He said any young men using steroids were doing it for vanity reasons.

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