May 21, 2015
Australia: Steroid seizures and arrests soar to record highs
Two new reports reveal that Australia is catching fewer steroid shipments at our borders – yet the numbers of national steroid seizures and arrests have risen to record highs. The latest Australian Crime Commission report on organised crime in Australia, released on Wednesday, suggested the decline in what we’re stopping at our borders may be due to more steroids being made locally, as well as their availability over the internet. It comes just after the release of another Crime Commission report, on illicit drugs in Australia. This shows that the number of detections of performance- and image-enhancing drugs at the Australian border fell by a third in 2013-2014. That’s the first decrease seen since 2004-2005. But the number of steroid-related drug seizures and arrests continued to rise across Australia, continuing a decade-long trend. So what is the true picture of illegal performance- and image-enhancing drug use in Australia? And where are these drugs coming from?
Where are Australia’s steroids, peptides and hormones coming from?Steroids are the single best-known performance- and image-enhancing drug – but that category also includes peptides and hormones. The Australian Standard Classification of Drugs of Concern, which is used by the Crime Commission, distinguishes four classes of substances as anabolic agents and selected hormones. These are: anabolic-androgenic steroids, other anabolic agents and selected hormones, beta2-agonists, peptide hormones, mimetics and analogues. Steroids still account for the majority of performance- and image-enhancing drugs detected on our border, with some 77.4% being steroids, while the rest are hormones. In 2013-2014, steroid border detections decreased by 21.8% and hormones by 56%. Postal channels remain the main method of importing such drugs, although importation by air cargo is increasing. The latest Crime Commission report suggests that one reason for the drop in border interceptions could be increased domestic production.
There is also evidence of the domestic diversion of chemicals used to produce injectable forms of steroids, suggesting possible domestic production of these substances, which may account for some of the decrease in border detections.Internet sales are another source for the drugs, with unregulated online pharmacies offering global accessibility to the drugs. The report also notes:
Internationally, organised crime groups are heavily involved in the trafficking of [performance- and image-enhancing drugs]. Organised crime groups, particularly outlaw motorcycle gangs and their associates, are involved in the trafficking of [performance- and image-enhancing drugs] in the Australian market.
Who are the most likely users?Despite increased media portrayals of performance- and image-enhancing drug use in professional sporting contexts, elite athletes are in fact, one of the smallest sub-groups of users. Instead, the new Organised Crime in Australia Report states:
One of the key drivers of the market is a strong youth culture, particularly prevalent among young males, that is focused on a muscular and athletic physical appearance.The 2012 Australian Needle and Syringe Programs Survey found that the majority of injecting users in 2012 were heterosexual males, who were typically 18 years at first drug injection – demographics that have remained stable since 2008. Males made up some 90% of consumer arrests for steroids in Australia. The 2013 National Drugs Strategy Household Survey found more than twice as many men as women are using performance- and image-enhancing drugs – specifically young men. One Australian study suggests that use is higher among young people than the general population, with 2.4% of 12 to 17-year-olds surveyed reporting lifetime steroid use. Similar recent findings in the US show that teenage steroid use was equivalent to or above use of methamphetamine, heroin and crack cocaine.