January 7, 2015
UK: One Million Britons May Use Steroids Regularly
A Sky News investigation finds police officers and children as young as 13 are using steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.
Up to a million people in Britain could be illicitly using steroids on a regular basis, a Sky News investigation has found.Police officers and children as young as 13 are among the rising number of people using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Interviews with drug workers, current and former users and academics reveal that steroid use has moved from the sub-culture of muscle gyms to the mainstream, with young men seeking a chemical shortcut to hone their physique. The increase in the number of users has led to concerns about the long-term health risks of substances that promote muscle growth, but can cause organ damage and lead to psychological problems. The use of injectable steroids also carries a risk of infection from blood-borne diseases, with steroid users who share needles vulnerable to HIV and hepatitis. Public Health England (PHE) told Sky News more needs to be done to combat the issue. “More does need to be done, this is a growing issue, there are significant health harms associated with steroids,” said Peter Burkinshaw of PHE. Drug workers across the UK report a huge rise in the number of steroid users taking advantage of needle exchange services, where they now outnumber all other drug users combined. There are no nationwide statistics for the number of steroid users, but informed estimates based on the evidence of local drug services put the number possibly as high as one million. Home Office figures relating to seizures bear out the evidence on the ground of a sharp rise in the number of young men turning to drugs to help them hone their physique. Individual seizures of steroids and other PIEDs (performance and image-enhancing drugs) increased by 35% in 2014 compared with the previous year, while the total number of doses rose by 70%, up from 1.5 million doses to 2.5 million doses. Drug workers in sites across England said that pressure to conform to a highly-defined body type was a factor in the increase, and said they were aware of children as young as 13 using the drugs. “It’s all to look good on a Friday night, and it is predominantly 15 to 25-year-olds,” said Joseph Keane, who runs The Bridge drugs project in Bradford. “I have had a 15-year-old injecting steroids straight into his chest, and I have heard anecdotally of guys as young as 13. “That is the sort of pressure that is on them to look good from a young age.” At needle exchanges run by the Open Road project in Basildon, Essex, they are aware of police and forces staff who use the drugs. “There are certain jobs that attract users – Army, doormen, police,” said Gill Hurford. “They are people who feel they need to be fitting for the role. It could be anyone, it could be you. “It’s anyone who doesn’t feel happy with the way they look.” A former police officer who used steroids, and left the force when he faced disciplinary charges, told Sky News he felt super-human when he was using the drugs. “I’m a police officer and I look like a comic book hero, and I’m in a costume. Nine times out of 10 my sheer presence alone was enough to defuse a situation,” he said. “I will still say, and I won’t regret saying this, it made me better at my job. That’s why people take it. It’s a performance-enhancing substance.” His drug use came at a price to his health however. “My liver was inflamed, that was as a result of taking oral steroids because your liver has to deal with the toxins. “The left ventricle in my heart was enlarged … and my thyroid was on the verge of packing up.” Anabolic steroids are a prohibited Class C drug that can only be possessed and imported for personal use. They can only be brought into the country carried by the person using them.