Serious concerns have been raised over an increase in Cheltenham teenagers using steroids due to an obsession to get “ripped” gym bodies.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) has reported a dramatic increase in those using performance or image enhancing drugs, with reports of people as young as 15 shooting up.
In Cheltenham, fitness experts warned the trend of young people using steroids was not uncommon – and urged people to be aware of the risks involved.
Side effects linked to steroid use range from acne, hair loss and shrunken testicles, to fertility, liver and heart problems.
Emma Brace, a body builder from Cheltenham, said men as young as 16 in the town were using the class C drug which is legal to possess.
“There is a growing trend these days for young people to think that popping a pill or injecting a substance will get them the bodies they crave,” said the 44-year-old.
“Unfortunately that is not the case. There is no magic potion or quick fix.
“My first advice to young people who want to get into bodybuilding is to stay away from steroids.
“There are serious side effects for people who abuse them.
“There is no substitute for hard work and putting the hours in. The gains you will make by doing it naturally will stay with you for life.”
Drug and alcohol charity Crimes Reduction Initiatives said it had seen the number of steroid users visiting its UK needle exchanges go from just 290 in 2010 to 2,161 last year – a rise of 645 per cent.
The bodybuilding craze has prompted health watchdog Nice to update its guidelines for needle exchanges in England, saying needles should be provided to under 18s.
Alex Barton, manager of Simply Gym, in Wyman’s Lane, said there was a lot of pressure on young men to look good these days.
“We have definitely seen a big increase in the number of young men coming to the gym, and I think that comes from a pressure to look good.
“Steroid use has never been a problem at our gym, but sometimes people do want to get big quickly – and that is why they might go down that road.
“But there are risks involved and I would urge young people never to do something like that without having all the information.
“Steroids don’t get you fit. They just allow you to train harder and for longer.
“There is no substitute for hard work and I would always encourage people to go down the natural route.”anabolic steroids > banned substances > bodybuilding > cardiovascular > Don Hooton > steroids > Taylor Hooton Foundation