Explosion of steroid use fuelled by reverse anorexia
YOUNG men seeking the perfectly sculpted body are helping to drive up usage of performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDS) in Scotland, experts have warned, amid cases of "reverse anorexia".
Growing concern about the rise of drugs such as anabolic steroids has led to plans to open a specialist clinic in Inverness for users.
A centre already exists in Glasgow, giving advice on the dangers of injecting the drugs and the health problems they could bring.
Numbers using PIEDs are unclear, but the British Crime Survey said about 250,000 people had taken steroids at least once for non-medicinal reasons, with about 75,000 using them in the past year.
Drug agencies are certain their use is increasing sharply, predominantly among young men in their 20s and 30s, but also in those as young as 16.
Although associated with nightclub doormen, cheating sportsmen and weightlifters who use such drugs to "bulk up", PIEDs are now commonly used by men trying for a muscular physique. In some cases they are being used together with tanning injections.
The Inverness centre is expected to open in the next three months. Harm reduction service staff identified the need after seeing PIED users when they came in for clean needles.
Lisa Ross, a clinical harm reduction nurse, said: "We have known for some time a service is needed as there are many more out there."
She said usage was "definitely" affected by image, but some steroid takers do not exercise or have a proper diet, believing the drugs alone will help them improve their physique.
As well as providing clean equipment, the new centre will give advice on nutrition and exercise and alternatives to drugs such as protein and vitamin supplements.
The Glasgow clinic, which opens once a week, regularly sees ten to twenty PIED users.
Carole Hunter, lead pharmacist (addictions) at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: "In many cases (steroids] are taken for appearance purposes, and to look good in a tight top."
She said in the first three months, 29 per cent of those attending left without needles but with advice on diet and nutrition.
Anabolic steroids can be taken as tablets or injected. Most users obtain supplies over the internet or from friends but do not regard themselves as drug users.
They are Class C, prescription- only drugs, and while it is not an offence to possess them for personal use, it is an offence to supply them. Side-effects can include liver and heart problems, baldness, growth of breast tissue and mood swings.
A spokesman for the charity Drugscope said: "Use of anabolic steroids has rapidly increased in the UK in recent years. No one knows for sure how many users there are but some surveys show between 20 and 40 per cent of those attending some gyms use them.
"Many people who use anabolic steroids are 'self improvers'.They like to think of themselves as healthy and fit and getting ahead in the world. Even if they are injecting, they do not think of themselves as drug users, any more than somebody who regularly takes vitamin pills.
"Young men are getting involved in taking steroids not for sporting purposes or competitive body building, but to improve their body image. There are some reports of 'reverse anorexia' - people thinking they can never be big enough."
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs produced a re-port in September on the use of anabolic steroids.
It said: "These substances have become popular in relation to body building and image enhancement and there is some evidence that such use is increasing."
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