Hundreds of Scots are being admitted to hospital after taking so called “lifestyle drugs” aimed at enhancing their body image and performance, official figures have revealed.
Experts now fear they are dealing with a “completely different” type of drug user who take pride in their appearance. This includes teenagers injecting themselves with steroids.
About one in ten Scottish drug users are now hooked on such substances and it is feared they are overlooked by medical chiefs because they are not part of “traditional problem” groups.
Nearly 1,500 people have been admitted to wards across Scotland in recent years after using drugs such as botox, anabolic steroids or beta blockers, according to figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives.
Lifestyle drugs are generally defined as those aimed at improving “quality of life” rather than curing illness. Last year alone, 373 people were admitted for using performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs).
There have been 1,424 admissions since 2010 for substances which include caffeine stimulants, human growth hormone, oestrogen antagonists, erythropoietin (EPO) and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). These are among substances favoured by high-profile sporting drug cheats.
Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “We are seeing a series of new challenges being posed to the NHS by not only legal highs, but drugs used to enhance image and performance.
“The numbers involved are just the tip of the iceberg, there’s clearly a much larger problem bubbling away underneath. We can’t afford to be blindsided by this, because so much of our attention is dominated by what we would regard as traditional problem drug users.”
It is feared the true picture across Scotland is even more alarming because major health boards such as Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Lothian did not hold the relevant information.
Of the boards which did respond, NHS Fife had the most admissions with 118 last year, followed by NHS Ayrshire and Arran with 92.
Neal Patel, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: “These are worrying statistics and it’s clear people need to be made aware of the potential risks associated with taking PIEDs.
“People may obtain these medicines from unregulated or unverified websites. Some of these illegal sites are very professional and look like legitimate online pharmacies, but supply dangerous fakes or unlicensed medicines that have serious health implications.”
Many of those admitted to hospital in Scotland were under the age of 18, while in NHS Grampian, there were instances of patients being admitted following “abuse of herbal or folk remedies”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The growing use of performance- and image-enhancing drugs is of concern. This is a matter that is reserved to Westminster and we are keen to see proper regulations of these substances.
“We have made a record investment of over £224 million in front-line drug treatment and support services, £30.4m of this in 2014-15 alone.”
Earlier this year, the National Institute of care Excellence (Nice) south of the Border issued new recommendations about services for those on PIEDs, amid concerns that almost 60,000 used anabolic steroids in the previous year.
It is feared many using them without the right equipment or education.
Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Nice centre for public health, said at the time: “We are now seeing a completely different group of people injecting drugs. They do not see themselves as ‘drug addicts’; quite the contrary, they consider themselves to be fit and healthy people who take pride in their appearance.”