Steroids see four-fold increase, data shows, fuelled by rise in muscle-conscious young men
Steroids are the only drug in the UK to have seen a four-fold increase in the past year, official data shows, fuelled by a rise in muscle-conscious young men.
The vast majority of drugs have declined in usage compared to last year, with only a handful increasing by a small fraction, according to the most recent Crime Survey, published by the Home Office.
Use of anabolic steroids saw the biggest increase of all among 16-24 year-olds, from 0.1 per cent of the population to 0.4 per cent, meaning that an extra 19,000 young people have taken the drug in the past year.
Ian Hamilton, a lecturer in addiction at the University of York, said the figures are concerning. He said that the increase in steroid use was in part down to doping in sport which has “gathered pace” in recent years, but mainly down to a changing concept of masculinity.
“In some ways young men have been catching up with young women over the last few years, they are more sensitive and vigilant about how they should look and this is becoming more acute,” Mr Hamilton told The Telegraph. “I think it is to do with appearance and masculinity, and the messages we absorb through social media.”
He said that reality television shows, such as the popular Love Island series, are contributing to young men’s obsession with their bodies which in turn leads to increased steroid use.
Mr Hamilton said that drugs are becoming easier to access as “you don’t need to go on to the dark web, you can get them quite freely online or in other European countries.
He added that the rise in steroid use is a “very worrying trend, not least of all because although some people will initially use steroids orally but we know there is a significant number who will go on to inject and that brings in the same hazards as injecting any drug.”
Cannabis remains the most commonly used drug among 16-59-year-olds, with 6.6 per cent of respondents having taken it in the last year, followed by powder cocaine at 2.3 per cent. Roughly one in 12 adults had taken an illicit substance in the last year, according to findings from the survey.
The proportion equates to around 2.8 million people, and was similar to the previous year. But the figure is a “statistically significant” fall on a decade ago, when it stood at around one in 10.
There was a fall in the use of new psychoactive substances (NPS), which were widely known as “legal highs” before laws criminalising their production, distribution, sale and supply were introduced last year.
The Crime Survey for England and Wales is a household survey, so does not include figures for drug use among those who are homeless, in prison, or living in student halls of residence.