Drug charities taking the strain of IPED side effects

Drug rehab charities and GP surgeries are taking the strain of patients suffering with side effects of steroids and other dangerous Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPEDs).

Survey work for Clean Sport Week has shown that 41% of gym users surveyed who take IPEDs, have suffered side effects. These include shrunken testes and development of breast tissue in men, as well as other physical and psychological impacts: acne, aggression and mood swings, heart attack, stroke, liver and kidney failure, high blood pressure, and blood clots. Many IPED users also chose to inject the substances**, they run the risk of contracting bloodborne viruses, such as hepatitis B and C, and HIV.

As part of Clean Sport Week, UKAD and leaders of the UK’s fitness and gym industry have committed to a new education programme to protect gym users and highlight the risks of taking anabolic steroids and other dangerous IPEDs.

Drug charities and GP surgeries are responding to an increase in patients suffering with side affects of steroid and IPED use. Open Road, a drug and alcohol recovery support charity based in Essex and Medway, runs a clinic specifically for IPED and steroid users.

Speaking during Clean Sport Week, Adam Coombes, a Project Outreach Officer at Open Road, said: “Through our needle and syringe programme, we issue around 100,000 needles a year for IPED use which is a third of our total needle distribution. We’ve certainly seen an increase in the number of people contacting us in relation to IPED use since we launched our specialist service in 2017.

“It’s so important that people are educated around the harms related to IPED use, whether their motivations are around body image or fitness gains, so it’s great to see UKAD and the fitness industry leading the way and filling this gap.”

It is estimated there are up to a million steroid users in the UK ***. Those on the front line of health care in the UK are those who see these cases first hand.

Gwent based Trainee GP Anne Gulland wrote for the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2018, *****: “For the past six months, fellow GP trainee Rhys Evans and I have been running the image and performance enhancing drug (IPED) clinic in Gwent.

“The biggest population group we’re seeing are not bodybuilders or strong men —they’re people who are taking these drugs because they want to look better.

“This is a growing problem as what men think is a normal body has changed. Prevention is better than cure and it would be good to talk to young people about these drugs. One of our patients had been using them since his young teens.”

The survey conducted by ukactive for Clean Sport Week, found that a third (34%*) of gym users surveyed said they were aware of other members of their gym taking IPEDs, while nearly a sixth (14%*) knew someone suffering from the side effects of IPED use.

UKAD Chief Executive, Nicole Sapstead, said: “It is clear that IPED use in the gym environment is an area which requires action.

“We are delighted that the fitness and gym industry has reacted positively to the findings of our recent survey, and recognise the role they can play, in working with us, to keep people safe.

“Taking anabolic steroids and IPEDs without a prescription is dangerous and it is vital that both gym users and staff have access to a proper education programme to clarify the risks.”

One in seven people in the UK is a member of a gym and the UK fitness industry’s market value in the 12 months to March 2019 was just over £5 billion. ****

Clean Sport Week runs from Mon 20 – Sunday 26 May 2019. For more information go to UKAD.org.uk

* Survey Results: Polling of 361 online respondents carried out by UK Active Research Institute, May 2019

** The National IPEDinfo Survey 2017

***Up to a million Britons use steroids for looks not sport https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/21/up-to-a-million-britons-use-steroids-for-looks-not-sport

**** 2019 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report

***** BMJ 2018;360:k558 https://www.bmj.com/content/360/bmj.k558