Warning as number of steroids seized surges 300%

There has been an explosion in the number of anabolic steroids seized, with quantities in the first eight months of the year up 300% compared to 2016, writes Pádraig Hoare

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) has also warned the vast majority of steroids seized are fake and pose a direct risk to consumers.

Anabolic steroids are used to significantly increase lean muscle tissue. Abusers can grow muscle at a greater rate than those relying on diet and training alone. However, side-effects can be extreme, ranging from heart and liver problems to cosmetic damage such as acne, loss of hair, enlarged breasts, and shrunken testes in men, and facial hair growth and changes to sex organs in women. Evidence has also shown that steroids significantly increase aggression in individuals prone to anger.

Detentions of anabolic steroids have increased from 2013 onwards with “notable shifts occurring in 2016 and 2017,” the HPRA said.

The body, which carried out the seizures with gardaí and Revenue’s Customs Service, seized 443,263 units for the first eight months of 2017, compared to 109,006 in 2016.

In 2015, the numbers seized were 38,049, while in 2014 it was 20,752. In 2013, just 18,836 were seized.

The HPRA said it has placed an increasing focus on illegal supplies in recent years, and that better co-operation between the authorities had led to the exponential increase in units seized.

Units describe vials of anabolic steroids of injectable form as well as tablets.

Chris Luke, doctor of emergency medicine at the Mercy University Hospital, Cork, described the haul as a “frightening figure”, adding that many users were unaware of the dangerous side effects of abuse. He said there was an incorrect perception that anabolic steroid abuse was less harmful than cocaine or heroin.

“Anabolic steroids can cause huge damage,” he said. “As well as the harm caused to the liver, heart, kidneys, and other vital organs, the cosmetic side effects are really significant. Typical anabolic steroid abusers can expect abscesses, breast growth and smaller testes in men, flesh eating diseases and so-called ‘roid rage’.

“It is body image that attracts users in the first place, so I believe making people aware of the cosmetic damage caused by side effects is just as good a strategy as making them aware of the implications for internal organs and health. Even if 1% of users face complications, you are still looking at potentially thousands of patients.”

The former strength and conditioning coach to Cork’s Gaelic footballers, Ainle Ó Cairealláin, said some gyms need to do more to combat abuse of steroids.

Ainle Ó Cairealláin: Says many gyms are ignoring the problem.

“I can see that gyms around the country are turning a blind eye to people who are as young as 18 who are accessing and using anabolic steroids in pursuit of what they believe to be the ideal body type,” said Dr Luke. “It isn’t under the supervision of a doctor. It isn’t administered in a medical facility, and it certainly isn’t legal or healthy. There is a problem with steroid use among young people in Ireland today, and it is important to talk about it.”

The HPRA also warned the majority of the seizures were counterfeit steroids.

“The majority of anabolic steroids containing medicines detained to date in 2017 are falsified,” said the HPRA. “Such products were illegally manufactured or misrepresented their true source or distribution chain.

“Some had a different active ingredient than listed on the package while others did not reveal any active ingredient on analysis. This is indicative of illicit manufacturing where standards that are used in the manufacture of legitimate medicines are not applied. This situation poses a direct risk to the health of consumers.”

This story originally appeared in theIrish Examiner.


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