Rampant steroid abuse among young men in Gloucester is creating a new generation of artificially enhanced ‘monsters’, it has been claimed.
Steroids are just a quick phone call away from most users according to one personal trainer in the city, who said the surge in people turning to the drug will have long term implications for a generation of young people.
In pursuit of the ultimate physique, a new batch of young bodybuilders have turned to steroids, injecting themselves before or after a heavy weight lifting session.
But many are doing it despite the potentially deadly side effects which include infertility, baldness and psychosis.
In just one Stroud Road needle exchange centre, more than 50 syringe packs are handed out weekly, with most used for steroids.
A personal trainer, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “Steroids are everywhere in Gloucester. I can pick up the phone and have a delivery within ten minutes. Twenty years ago it was an underground industry and it was obvious to recognise those taking them.
“Users had all the signs, bad skin, aggression and looked as though they had been blown up by a foot pump.
“Now, a chemistry graduate can knock up steroids for his own personal use, or to sell. It is everywhere.
“Steroids are dangerous. You are putting something in to your body that has been created in a laboratory. It will have long term implication for this generation of young people who want to look a certain way.”
Conservative estimates from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence suggest 59,000 people aged 16-59 are using steroids in England and Wales.
It suggests outreach programmes should be set up in gyms to try to warn users of the dangers.
Speaking at a sport seminar at the University of Gloucestershire, GB Olympic rowing doctor Dr Ann Redgrave fears the trend could have huge health implications in future.
“If you have a young rugby player, rower or young school lad in gyms and they see steroids being used, it has a dangerous effect,” she said.
“Steroids today are very different to the steroids of 20 years ago. They are even more potent now. Who knows what will happen in future. Bodybuilders who are so open about their steroid use create a massive problem for others. It is a striking statistic to hear we have more anabolic steroids users in this country than drug addicts.”
Pharmacists in Stroud Road are handing out more than 50 safe syringe packs a week, many to steroid users as young as 18.
Fresh guidance by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence said needle and syringe programmes, set up in the 1980s and 1990s to stem the spread of HIV, should also make sure steroid users have the sterile equipment needed to prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses like hepatitis.
Steroids have become so widespread some gyms have resorted to offering ‘under the counter’ sharp bins so users can dispose of dirty needles after a workout, it has been claimed.
Pharmacist Dhiran Vadhia, pictured, manages a needle exchange centre in Stroud Road. He hands out free NHS packs in two sizes with one millimetre needles for recreational drugs and the two millimetre packs used for steroids.
“We have seen a big increase in the number of packs given out for sport rather recreational drugs,” he said.
“We are trained up to give advice on how to safely inject and we also provide the bins for old needles. We want them to bring the old needles back so they are not left lying around. People can also get skin complaints and infections from injecting.
“A lot more young people are coming in for these packs now, there has been a big rise in 18-24 year olds who are using them. Not everyone knows where we are, but we still send out more than 50 of these packs a week. There are five other exchange centres in Gloucester, they will be seeing similar numbers I’m sure. Young people need to be aware of the risks of injecting. We find people take them away but don’t always bring the needles back.
“They are saying that some gyms now have their own black boxes so people can dispose of their needles safely there.”
Anabolic steroids can only be sold by pharmacists with a doctor’s prescription.
It’s legal to possess or import steroids as long as they’re for personal use. Possession or importing with intent to supply is illegal and could lead to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
Steroids: The dangers
Increased risk of developing prostate cancer
Reduced sperm count or infertility
Breast development in men
Splayed teeth and overgrowth of the forehead giving an ‘incredible hulk’ appearance