Steroid addiction sounds like something that could only happen to professional sportsmen, but the reality is that it is increasingly common in normal young men (and women).
It used to be that steroids were mainly a problem in backstreet gyms, where trainers or fellow gym goers would approach you to try to sell them. ‘If you went to a gym for long enough’ explained Peter, an ex sportsman who’s name we have changed for anonymity reasons, ‘then you would undoubtedly be approached by someone who wanted to offer you steroids. If you are a competitive man, who is desperate to look bigger then it’s easy to convince yourself that taking steroids isn’t cheating.’
Nowadays gyms aren’t the main problem. The internet is filled with sites that sell every steroid under the sun, totally legally, meaning that even young teenage boys can buy them but at a cost… their health.
Interestingly no fitness experts were willing to speak to us about steroids on the record (it is a murky world apparently and non one wanted to be associated with them even to speak out against them) but here is what we know:
1. Steroids aren’t illegal. That’s right, although they are a class C drug, they aren’t illegal to buy or take. Over the counter you need a prescription from a doctor but on the Internet, any old Joe Blogs can snap them up. It is only illegal to transport them across boarders or to buy with intention to “deal” them. They are banned from professional sport, meaning that you are more likely to find them in your local gym than at the Olympics.
2. There isn’t just one type of steroid. Anabolic steroids are hormones (similar to sex hormones like testosterone) and there are hundreds of different types and brands.
3. Steroids enable users to fast track weight training. They allow you to bulk up considerably in several weeks to the same extent as it might take you in 12 weeks. They are essentially a shortcut to a stronger, bigger body.
4. Anabolic Steroids are addictive. ‘Once you know the efficiency with which your body performs whilst using them, it can be very depressing to train without them,’ explains Peter. They play to the users ego and, like any drug, tempt the user with the ‘easy route’ to strength.
5. The side effects are nasty. There are plenty of strange side effects that you may be able to spot if someone you know is on steroids. Firstly terrible acne, often on the users back, chest or face. Also if you’re a bloke your balls will shrink to the size of marbles, within weeks. This seems crazy if most men are trying to bulk up for vanity reasons. In women expect your breasts to shrink and a bout of acne too.
6. Long term the health facts aren’t good. On top of the addiction you are looking at increased risk of heart attacks, high blood pressure and infertility.
7. Steroids could be being sold in a gym near you or online. Watch out for anyone that approaches you talking about ‘weight gain enhancers’ or unusual brands of ‘workout shakes’
8. Steroids can be taken orally as supplements and via injection (normally in the buttock). Both are equally as risky although needle sharing in backstreet gyms is a genuine concern for the passing on of disease like Hepatitis B and HIV.
9. Stacking: some users take more than one type of steroid at a time – they believe that this increases their effectiveness. This is of course extremely dangerous if you don’t know what is in each dose.
10. Cycling: if you inject steroids for a period of three weeks and then stop for a short period, this is call ‘cycling’.
1. Pyramiding: This is a combination of ‘cycling’ and ‘stacking’, where one or more type of steroids is taken at a low dose. This is gradually increased to a maximum dose over a longer period. The dose is then reduced to zero before the cycle starts again.
If you are or know anyone who you think might be affected by steroids, visit Smart Muscle, which holds a meeting every week to offer free and confidential advise for anyone using of thinking of using steroids and also offer a free needle exchange service.