The Crime Survey for England and Wales estimates that around 60,000 people are using steroids to gain muscle, to become leaner and fitter, or to get stronger. But academics and experts who work with steroid users believe the real figure is much higher – probably in the hundreds of thousands.
Needle-exchange clinics across the UK report that steroids users are a growing group and, in some cases, even exceed other illegal drug-using groups. Recently, Merchants Quay Ireland, the largest needle-exchange clinic in Ireland, reported that over the past two years 50% more people have come to the service for needles and other equipment to inject steroids.
What is even more alarming is that a significant number of young men are consuming a range of performance and image enhancing drugs, including steroids and human growth hormone. While the use of steroids has traditionally been limited to professional athletes, bodybuilders, soldiers and police, it is increasingly becoming a mainstream choice for young men looking to bulk up or lose weight.
Distorted body image
A rising number of young people are unhappy with the way they look. Although social pressure to conform to idealised beauty standards is nothing new, the growth of social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook has exacerbated this focus on appearance. Young people spend several hours a day using social media, interacting with and comparing themselves with their peers, often in the pursuit of the perfect profile picture or to increase their number of followers and “likes”.