Increasing use of anabolic steroids could see thousands of people dying early from heart attacks and strokes, warns the British Cardiovascular Society.

The warning comes amid concerns that steroids are now being taken by hundreds of thousands of people, particularly men in their teens and 20s. As well as heart attacks and strokes, the misuse of anabolic steroids can lead to other health risks, such as infertility and mood swings. This is because they cause an imbalance of hormones which can damage many different organs, especially the heart. The drugs are legal to use but illegal to supply, unless you’re a doctor. Anyone found guilty of supplying steroids can face a prison sentence of up to 14 years. And yet, the increasing demand is seeing dealers run the risk of a custodial sentence.

The rise in demand for steroids is a worldwide issue. The number of anabolic steroids seized in Ireland during the first 8 months of 2017 was up by 400% on the figure for the same period in 2016. In addition, the Brazilian Society of Cardiology highlighted the link between steroid abuse and early coronary artery disease at their annual congress. “Anabolic androgenic steroid abuse among young people is a widespread problem worldwide, and adverse events such as sudden cardiac death and heart attack have been reported in athletes,” says Francis Ribeiro de Souza, a PhD student from the Heart Institute at the University of São Paulo. “In Brazil, around 1 million people have used anabolic androgenic steroids at least once, and they are the seventh most commonly used drug in the country.”

Steroid users are predominantly young men who are using them purely for cosmetic purposes. They are looking to bulk up to enhance their physique. This is regarded as a ‘quick fix’ and the worry is that these users will not have been made aware of the stresses they are putting their bodies under to achieve that perfect figure. Social media and advertising are believed to be contributing to this worrying trend.

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