Steroid abuse in young men a growing concern
THE recent death of an Australian bodybuilder who perished in a sauna from presumed undiagnosed heart disease has again thrown the spotlight on the issue of anabolic steroid use among young men.
Online pictures of the 22-year- old man show a person clearly using anabolic steroids and who, by all accounts, was a thin person who decided to bulk up.
Many adolescents discover that there is a faster way to build a muscular body than simply training at the gym and eating well. And a muscular body is almost de rigueur in male youth culture.
This growing muscularity trend among young men carries with it many health risks and consequences.
Go to any gym and you will see young men lifting weights far heavier than they should and their conversations seem to focus on “bulking up”.
They will often train themselves to exhaustion in the forlorn hope that they can become like their idols on the football field or on television.
In doing so the risk of severe injury is high when heavier weights than can be managed comfortably are pushed beyond the limits of endurance.
This cultural change is spawning a relatively new psychological condition known colloquially as ‘megarexia’. This is a term that describes a pathological desire to gain large amounts of weight in the context of bodybuilding.
A type of body dysmorphia, megarexia can have significant pathological consequences that all GPs should be aware of.
And, of course anabolic steroids are part of the problem.
Black market supplies are freely available at almost every gym in NSW and probably most other states in Australia as well.
Enlisting a compliant GP may be part of a user’s development plan to obtain better quality anabolic drugs at a subsidised price, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
These men are much more likely to buy online, a fact reflected in media reports of customs officials seizing twice as many anabolic steroids and growth hormone products this year than they did in the same period in 2004-05.
These illicit products can be either purchased online, overseas, stolen from pharmaceutical suppliers or veterinary surgeons and yes, some are obtained from unscrupulous GPs.
The risks associated with taking these illicit products are considerable, and many young men experiment without fully understanding the dangers of these potent anabolic preparations. Injections are often done by friends, and their injection technique leaves a lot to be desired.
Some users will attend GPs and request anabolic steroids by name. They may well try to convince unsuspecting doctors that this drug is required to build body weight and to facilitate their entry into competition.
They will often attempt to collude with the doctor and suggest that he or she supervises their drug use.
It is illegal to prescribe anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes such as bodybuilding, yet some GPs can fall into the trap of prescribing despite the clear message from the literature that the risks of violent, aggressive, homicidal and even suicidal activity increases exponentially with the use of these drugs.
As healthcare professionals, we need to keep a close eye on this vulnerable population of young men who seem never to be happy with the way they look.
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