January 5, 2015
Steroid use in Melbourne increasing, say welfare groups
Steroid use is increasing throughout Melbourne, with users turning to needle exchange programs and vending machines, and putting themselves at serious risk, as they chase fit-looking bodies. Bodybuilders and young men keen to look fit are driving the increase, with reports that some users access up to 600 syringes at a time and later distribute them at gyms. A recent report from Youth Projects’ harm minimisation group Foot Patrol revealed an increase in steroid use in Melbourne, but especially in Broadmeadows. A survey of almost 900 drug users found that, in the CBD, steroids are the fifth-most common substance clients use. In the north-western suburbs, it is ranked third.
In both locations, it ranks higher than cocaine.Youth Projects chairwoman Melanie Raymond said because steroid users did not consider themselves drug users, they were at considerable risk of disease and physical harm because they often lacked awareness about which needle to use and the hygiene of injecting. “If they don’t recognise this behaviour for what it is, they are likely not heeding important drug safety information that they need to acquire,” she said. “They see it as part of a diet or vitamin-led regime additional to their gym workouts, rather than a practice where they are unsafely injecting illegal drugs into their body, with severe risks and side effects.” She said few users accessed needle vending machines not only because of their scarcity but because of the large quantities of steroids they use. “Steroid users use huge quantities when in the injecting cycle and machines would not be able to supply the quantity. [That] immediately introduces the risk of shared injecting and re-use of syringes.” Yarra Drug and Health Forum chief executive Joe Morris said an increasing number of steroid users were not bodybuilders but those wanting to improve their aesthetic. Ms Raymond said steroid use was not considered an issue three years ago but there had been a marked increase in the past 12 months. “Because we are now aware of the rise, we are responding with increased tracking of steroid use and since September 2013, have been distributing new steroid awareness packs. “This is a significant shift for us.” Fairfax Media revealed in January last year the plan to roll out needle vending machines at drug-using hotspots throughout Melbourne to reduce infection rates among drug users. At the time, then-YDHF chief executive Greg Denham said restrictive opening hours of programs left a dangerous gap during which users could not access clean equipment. Most needle exchange programs in Melbourne operate weekdays and between business hours. “It’s a logical next step to make sure we make clean syringes available when they’re needed, such as weekends,” he said. One such machine has been placed outside the Monash Medical Centre in Clayton. The 24-hour system charges $2 for clean syringes. New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia have already introduced the machines. Ms Raymond said users injected substances often meant for farm animals. “There is no safe dose and the composition of the substance is far from guaranteed,” she said. “Steroid users identify as people who are into fitness and health and not as injecting drug users. Yet they put themselves into the same practices and risks as anybody else who is injecting.” But the rise of steroids is now a big concern due to the inherent dangers of what they do and the introduction of injecting practices that an individual normally would not have adopted. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/victoria/steroid-use-in-melbourne-increasing-say-welfare-groups-20150104-12h24i.html