Needles should be handed out to under-18s to help safer injecting after a worrying rise in steroid use in young men in Gloucester, health experts claim.
Guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has been issued following a huge rise in steroid use since 2010.
Drug and alcohol charity, the Crimes Reduction Initiatives [CRI], said it had seen a rise of 645 per cent in steroid users visiting its 21 needle exchanges in the UK, up from just 290 in 2010, to 2,161 last year.
Steroid users are putting themselves at risk from bloodborne infections such as HIV and hepatitis in a bid to get in shape.
Anabolic steroid use is illegal to use to increase muscle mass or improve athletic performance and is only legally available through a prescription.
Workers at needle exchange centres have said the profile of their clients has shifted in recent years.
Professor Mike Kelly, director of the NICE Centre for Public Health said that clinics were now seeing “a completely different group of people injecting drugs”.
“They do not see themselves as ‘drug addicts’; quite the contrary,” he said.
“They consider themselves to be fit and healthy people who take pride in their appearance.
“Since we last published our guideline on needle and syringe programmes in 2009, we’ve seen an increase in the use of image and performance enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids.
“We’ve also heard anecdotal evidence that more teenagers are injecting these image and performance enhancing drugs too.
“We’re updating our guideline to make sure all of these groups of people are considered in the planning and delivery of needle and syringe programmes.”
Needle exchange is available in Gloucestershire:
Barkey Chemist, 110 High Street, Tredworth, Gloucester GL1 4TA - phone 01452-523937
Badham Pharmacy Ltd., 33 Morley Avenue, Churchdown GL3 2BL - phone 01452-712286
Badham Pharmacy Ltd., 6 Prestbury Road, Cheltenham GL52 2PW - phone 01242-523226
Day Lewis Pharmacy, 19 Broad Street, Newent GL18 1AQ - phone 01531-820443
Spa Pharmacy, 12 Rotunda Terrace, Montpellier Street, Cheltenham GL50 1SW - phone 01242-522130.