Use of anabolic steroids has increased four-fold in the past twelve months, from 0.1% of the population to 0.4%. This means that an extra 19,000 young people, aged between 16 and 24-years-old, have taken the Class C drug since the same time in 2016.
Experts believe it’s fuelled by a rise in muscle-conscious young men.
While the vast majority of drugs have declined nationwide, the trend for the muscle-enhancing drugs is on the rise. Although it’s worth noting that the same government Crime Survey for 2015-2016 saw anabolic steroid use fall in the same age group, from 0.5% to 0.1%, before rising again this year.
“I think it is to do with appearance and masculinity, and the messages we absorb through social media,” Ian Hamilton, a lecturer in addiction at the University of York, told The Telegraph.
Hamilton also cited shows such as ITV2′s popular ‘Love Island’ for presenting a certain type of male body image to viewers.
In the UK, anabolic steroids are a prescription-only medicine (sold by pharmacists) but often taken without medical advice to increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance. They can cause serious side effects and addiction.
The NHS says: “Anabolic steroids are manufactured drugs that mimic the effects of the male hormone testosterone. They have limited medical uses and aren’t to be confused with corticosteroids, a different type of steroid drug that’s commonly prescribed for a variety of conditions.”
While it is not illegal to possess anabolic steroids for personal use, they can’t be posted or delivered by a courier or freight service.
They can cause unwanted side effects such as reduced sperm count, infertility, shrunken testicles, erectile dysfunction, baldness, breast development, increased risk of developing prostate cancer, severe acne and stomach pain.
They can also put users at a higher risk of coming into contact with HIV - one in 10 men who inject themselves with anabolic steroids have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis B or C, according to a 2013 study.
Drugs advisory organisation, Frank, warns users: “Injecting any drug, even steroids, can damage your veins and cause ulcers and gangrene, particularly with dirty needles or poor injecting technique. Sharing needles, syringes and other injecting works can help spread HIV, hepatitis C and other infections.
Teenage boys and young men may take the drugs because they have reverse anorexia. According to the NHS, this is where they don’t see themselves as being physically big enough or strong enough.