Youth steroid abuse is a global epidemic: New Zealand

Traditionally, the thought of steroids evokes images of bronzed and often unnatural-looking muscle men. But they certainly aren’t the only ones dabbling in illicit substances.

Young Kiwi men – many of whom are still at school and in their teens – are experimenting with potent anabolic steroids.

They’re taking the extreme step in many cases, not to enter bodybuilding competitions, but to simply look good and appeal to their peers. But the drugs come with serious risks.

Biking a dusty road to a milking shed is part of Dan Steed’s daily drill. He’s a hardworking 20-year-old in charge of 1000 cattle. For Mr Steed and his workmates, it’s a 3am start every morning. But when he’s done, his day is far from over.

Every night without fail, you’ll find Mr Steed at the gym pumping iron. His focus and determination is about more than just getting fit; it’s about looking good, about getting big.

“People want to look better,” he says. “The gym scene is massive now, compared to what it used to be. I can think back a couple of years ago and it’s no way near what it is now.”

There’s nothing unusual about a 20-year-old wanting to hit the gym. But Mr Steed’s desire to look good has not just encouraged him into exercise; he’s doing it with the help of powerful steroids.

“Yeah, it’s something you think about for a long time. You don’t just jump into it. I could say it was [a big step to take]. But once I had decided I was going to do it, then it was easy.”

For Mr Steed, his decision to do it happened in February this year after spending the summer at the beach.

“At the start it was for the girl side of things. You know, because you go down the beach. It all started last summer when I went down the beach. That’s where the main drive came from.”

Mr Steed hopes to one day compete on stage as a professional bodybuilder. But his 19-year-old friend, Kane Wilson, says most young users are not after competition medals; they simply want to look good and get respect. He too is remarkably candid about why he started what’s known as a cycle of steroids – he was self-conscious.

“When I was skinny, I felt weak,” says Mr Wilson. “I used to walk away from people and get bullied. I usually didn’t stand up to them. But when I first jumped on a cycle, a few months later, I felt better, stronger and able to stand up for myself. Right now I feel stronger and able to stand up.”

At first he was worried about what people might think about his steroid use.

“But now I am comfortable with it because I don’t care what people say. They would be right about it but we’re young. Give it a try, see how it turns out. There’s no harm in trying.”

He says anabolic steroids are even doing the rounds at high school.

“Some do it for the sport. Some people don’t really think about sport. They just want to look good for the beach or New Year’s.”

So what exactly are these young men taking? Normally it’s a whole raft of hormones used together. But the steroid generating the most interest at the moment is called trenbolone, an illegal enhancer that was never intended to be consumed by humans. It works by stimulating the growth of muscle fibres, and has a much higher anabolic, or muscle-building, ratio than other drugs.

“It would be the most powerful steroid that I’ve used,” says Mr Steed.

Popularly known as “tren” by users, it was originally developed to be used on animals.

“Trenbolone is a very, very potent androgenic, anabolic steroid that was designed to be used in veterinary science,” says Professor David Gerrad. “In other words, it’s not for human consumption, but to use to increase the bulk and muscle mass of cattle.”

Professor Gerrard is a former Olympic swimmer and sports medicine specialist at University of Otago.

“What these guys are doing, are using – and lets not mince words here – are very dangerous, very potent anabolic agents, which carry the legacy of long-term, serious clinical consequences because they’re using them without medical supervision.”

Dr Matthew Barnes from Massey University’s School of Sport and Exercise says the increased importance placed on appearance means more and more are looking for a quick way up.

“I think they’re definitely seen as a quick fix,” says Dr Barnes. “There’s a rush these days to get to where you want to be as fast as possible and that means taking shortcuts.”

Dr Barnes says that rush and desire to look good has in part been driven by social media and the endless commentary, photos and self-obsessing videos posted online.

“I think there may be a link to social media. If we look at the stats from overseas it’s estimated there are at least 3 million steroid users in the US across athletes and recreational users. Most of those do it to enhance the body – so appearance rather than performance.”

Dr Barnes says we have a vanity obsession.

“I think a lot of social media is about ‘look at me’, wanting instant gratification from others, so wanting approval from your peers. It’s all about getting that like, that tick box.”

Some extreme examples of that are Australian Zyzz Shavershian, who attracted a cult following on the internet after he started documenting his transformation from scrawny teen to shredded success story. Then there’s Kiwi bodybuilder Andy Priestley, who openly promotes and jokes about his use of steroids, in particular Trenbolone.

“Just lately the social media outburst of trenbolone has definitely taken a toll,” says Mr Steed. “Everyone wants to use it.

“The pictures that get posted. There’s different athletes that post things and put out what they’re using, what they’re taking and you look up to them. Someone aspires to them. They want to look like that so they think, ‘Oh well, let’s give it a crack, have a go at it.'”

The Risks

Lance Golding has had a lifelong love of weight training and building muscle. He’s 27 years old and has been using steroids for the past four years. It’s an illicit industry he says is booming.

“With such high demand for it…you’re getting kids from 15 to 21 looking for the stuff,” says Mr Golding. “No idea how it works, just wanting it because they think if they take it they can look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Zyzz.”

Like other recreational drugs, Mr Golding says steroids are being manufactured right here in New Zealand.

“Everywhere – all over the country, North Island, South island – when I first got into the scene there was one brand. Now there are almost 10 different brands of product out there.”

Mr Golding says trenbolone, or tren, is what everyone’s talking about. He says it’s being endorsed and discussed openly by users online, which even he agrees is dangerous.

“These kids, like myself at the time, don’t think about. They just think about the gains, the girls, the weights or getting bigger. I think their own self-image issues supersede any future plans they have or anything that could happen.”

So how are young men getting their hands on such powerful anabolic steroids like tren? We discovered it is relatively simple. In fact, it only takes a few clicks. One website promises same-day or overnight deliveries from the central South Island.

So we decided to ask for more information. After making an inquiry about what exactly was available, we were sent a detailed product list. It’s all pretty straightforward. It says you pay into a Kiwibank account and your order is shipped discreet and free from Canterbury. There are plenty of products to choose from.

You can get 11 different, illegal steroids, including testosterone and of course trenbolone. A 10ml vile is $110. So how is it that illegal steroids are so openly marketed and used?

“Where the legislation is I think absolutely without teeth, it is in the community at large,” says Professor Gerrard. “Our law enforcement is not prepared to go and investigate every case of someone who is using an anabolic steroid in the gym.”

Professor Gerrard says weak laws around recreational use means young steroid users are taking a chance. But he says there are other risks they shouldn’t ignore.

“The side effects vary and for the most part they’re hidden or invisible. You don’t know that your blood pressure is changing. You don’t have the symptoms of hypertension generally. You don’t know that your lipid profile is increasing. And in some cases, the chronic use of high-dose anabolic steroids actually produces what we call gynemastia – breast development and even lactation in some men.”

That’s at the extreme end, but what’s more common is what’s known as ‘roid rage. Mr Golding says it can be particularly bad when using trenbolone.

“I’m a lot more irritable. I get irritated at silly things. Yep, the night sweats. Yep, you get insomnia, fever. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes it’s not worth taking.”

Mr Wilson and Mr Steed say they did plenty of research and asked other users for advice before they started using trenbolone. But even they report some side effects.

“You get mood swings,” says Mr Wilson. “You get ‘roid rage. When people piss you off then you just snap, just like that. There’s no talking. It’s just straight rumble.”

But it’s clear these types of psychological changes are not enough to put an end to Mr Wilson’s steroid use. After all, he’s already tried to give up once before.

“To be honest, I wanted to stop. It’s pretty hard to stop. You just want to keep going and going and going.”

“Once these guys get into it, they feel better, they look better,” says Professor Gerrard. “There’s euphoria. There’s an exhibitionist tendency that is satisfied by looking at themselves in the mirror and seeing them looking so big. They become seduced by the way they appear. It’s very hard for some to stop.”

That’s where the danger lies. When you’re seeing results and getting noticed, it’s hard to pull back. But 20-year-old Mr Steed says he knows his limits.

“Yes, I do. And I’m very particular on my dosages and how I go about doing things for that reason. Just to make sure I’m as safe as possible.

“Like I say, I don’t drink; I don’t smoke; I don’t do party drugs. I would rather be in the gym on a Saturday night lifting weights and making myself look good and getting somewhere rather than being out in town spending money, drinking alcohol, waking up the next day sick. At least I can wake up on a Sunday morning and go do what I want – go back to the gym, spend the day at the beach and I’m not sick. At the end of the day, I’m going to look good.”

Read more: http://www.3news.co.nz/tvshows/3rd-degree/young-kiwis-experiment-with-potent-steroids-2014112620#ixzz3KBegrOip

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