- Users visiting a clinic in Wales increased from 269 to 2,161 in five years
- 50 per cent rise recorded in calls to a steroid helpline over the same period
- Spencer Matthews, who overcame addiction, fronts ITV’s report into it
The quest for the body beautiful is no longer just a female pursuit with pressure to be muscular now being blamed for a ‘steroid epidemic’.
People using needle exchanges has increased by eight times in the last five years, an investigation has found.
While the use of steroids has traditionally been limited to professional athletes, bodybuilders, soldiers and police, it is increasingly becoming a mainstream choice for young men looking to bulk up or lose weight.
Anabolic steroid use is at an all-time high with around one million users at present, experts estimate.
An investigation by Good Morning Britain has found the number of steroid users visiting one exchange clinic in Wales increased more than eight fold, from 269 to 2,161 in five years.
There has also been a 50 per cent rise in calls to the Welsh Drug and Alcohol helpline about steroids over the same period.
Researchers from the ITV breakfast programme contacted needle exchanges and drug charities across the country to get the latest figures on steroid use.
Speaking about his own experiences of steroids, Spencer revealed he took the pills in order to bulk up for a boxing match.
‘I was unaware of any dangers surrounding steroids as I had never given steroids a thought,’ he told The Mirror.
‘I just wanted to be as strong and heavy for the fight as I could, so took some poor advice.
STEROID PREVALENCE RATES
The Yorkshire and Humberside Steroid and IPED reference group reported the prevalence for steroid use in needle exchanges were:
- Warrington 86%
- Glasgow 72%
- Telford 77%
- Middlesbrough 67%
- Kirklees 60%
- Manchester 46%
‘I was lucky that it was for a short period and they had no effect on me.’
The drug is known to caused aggression, mental health problems and one former user said he had tried to take his own life three times.
Adam Trice, age 32, started taking steroids at 19 and it left him feeling suicidal, he now helps others who take the drugs.
He quit after doctors told him he was a month away from heat failure, as he said he ‘didn’t want his kids to see him die’.
He said: ‘I felt like Superman and then I come off and felt like average Joe. Everything is heightened, you’re stronger, you’re more confident.
‘I had a lot of mental health problems. I tried to take my own life three times.’
GMB also spoke to Joseph Kean who runs The Bridge drugs project in Bradford.
He said gym owners come in and get needles to give out to their gym members, as they have recognised there is a problem in their establishment and have come to them for support.
Joseph said: ‘We have gym owners that come in, they might come in and take 1000 [needles]. They give those out to their gym members.
‘It’s more that the gym has recognised there’s a problem in their establishment and these particular gyms have come to us for support.’
The report, which airs tomorrow, also found 28 per cent of all injectors in Glasgow are using steroids, with 88 per cent being male.
Anabolic steroids are taken to increase muscle mass and athletic performance. They can cause serious side effects and can become very addictive
While in Essex, drugs charity Open Road said over 50 per cent of visits to needle exchanges are by steroid users.
They also reported that 25 per cent of all first time users are teenagers as it was found boys as young as 14 were taking steroids.
Prevalence rates for HIV are now higher among steroid users than heroin users, according to the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University.
They also said the latest figures for Steroids and performance and image enhancing drugs in Cheshire and Merseyside are 20 per cent higher than they were a year ago.
Anabolic steroids are taken to increase muscle mass and athletic performance. They can cause serious side effects and can become very addictive.
Classed as a category C drug, they can only be sold by pharmacists to someone with a prescription.
It is illegal to import or possess the drugs, if it is believed you are going to sell them. The penalty can be a heavy fine or even prison time.
Steroids can be taken by an injection into the muscle, in pill form or they can also be applied by use of a cream or gel.
Side effects to steroid abuse for men are a reduced sperm count, infertility, shrunken testicles, erectile dysfunction, baldness, severe acne, breast development, increased risk of developing prostate cancer and stomach pain.
Side effects for women are facial hair growth and body hair, loss of breasts, swelling of the clitoris, a deepened voice, an increased sex drive, problems with periods, hair loss and severe acne.
Psychological and emotional effects include aggressive behaviour, mood swings, manic behaviour, hallucinations and delusions.