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The pressure of wanting to have a perfect body is causing young men to increasingly turn to steroid abuse.

There are now over 1 million image and performance enhancing drugs (IPED) users in the UK, according to the latest National IPED survey. Traditionally, IPED use has been associated with body builders, power lifters and elite sports people. However, in recent years, IPED use – in particular steroid use – has grown popular amongst everyday gym users, and predominantly young men who are using them purely for cosmetic purposes.

Steroids can help bulk up a person’s physique. 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, advertising and the pressure to compete in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture are believed to be contributing to this worrying trend.

What are steroids?

Anabolic steroids are manufactured drugs that mimic the effects of the male hormone testosterone. They are sometimes taken without medical advice to increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance. However, NHS guidelines state if used in this way, they can cause serious side effects and addiction.

Last year, the British Cardiovascular Society issued warnings over the increasing use of anabolic steroids, saying thousands of people could die early from heart attacks and strokes. The misuse of anabolic steroids can also 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 prescribed by 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.

Drug use in Wales

A specialist clinic run by the Gwent Specialist Substance Misuse Service has been set up in Newport to provide steroid users with support and advice. Multiple factors are at play, which make our younger generations more vulnerable to IPED use, according to Dr Rhys Evans, one of the doctors at the clinic.

“A lot of it is access. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to acquire these things. Almost to the point where you’ll go down to a local gym and there’ll usually be two or three people who either have access, or have it [steroids] in their bag with them.”

The aim of the clinic is to make users aware of the health risks associated with frequent or reckless use of steroids. AlphaBiolabs has a range of drug testing services, including hair, oral fluid and nail testing. For information, please call us on 0333 600 1300, email info@alphabiolabs.com or visit our website www.alphabiolabs.co.uk.