UK Anti-Doping tackles growing Gen-Z steroid use in bold, digital campaign

They say summer bodies are made in winter. But if the end of winter has crept up on you, and you’re not able to train normally in lockdown or get to the gym or your classes, would you go searching for a quick-fix alternative to get the muscly or toned physique you’re searching for?

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) has launched a digital campaign, highlighting the side effects and risks of anabolic steroid abuse - making them impossible to ignore. Just like social media doesn’t usually show the difficult times in a person’s life, the side effects of steroids are often buried too. It’s time for this to change. 

This bold Instagram-focused campaign is for the social media generation, who are exposed to unrealistic bodies online and on TV every day, often promoting quick-fix solutions to get ‘jacked’, ‘ripped’ or ‘beach body ready’. UKAD aims to show through this campaign that there is more than meets the eye, bringing the negative side effects of steroids to a platform that’s often used as someone’s showreel of them ‘living their best life’. 

Emily Robinson, UK Anti-Doping’s Director of Strategy and Education said: “Steroid abuse in the UK is now a serious public health issue. Social media and TV are more and more dominated by unrealistic body types, which we know leads to young people trying to emulate these. Young men in particular aged 20-24 are being lured into a false reality and begin to rationalise their choices, by convincing themselves that their new and so-called improved look outweighs the risks.

“If you’re in lockdown scrolling through your social media feeds and seeing six-pack after six-pack, it’s important to know that often what you’re looking at isn’t real or realistic. With this kind of relentless exposure to unrealistic body image types, it’s no surprise that some young people get tempted to take short-cuts and turn to steroids and other drugs. 

“This is a uniquely challenging time for many and getting exercise is really important, but the restrictions on where people can go and how they can train could add a sense of pressure to achieve a certain body shape. Our message to social media users is ‘remember that it isn’t always as picture perfect as it seems, and behind the filtered, touched up image lies some serious risk, several lasting, negative side effects and health risks’. 

“Regularly taking anabolic steroids can lead to physical and psychological changes in both men and women, as well as potentially dangerous medical conditions such as heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, blood clots and liver and kidney failure.”

In January UKAD released a report on steroids and other performance and image enhancing drugs. The stats show that experts suggest the number of individuals using steroids in the UK is close to, and more likely over, one million people, and according to a 2016 IPED survey, 56 per cent of these users took steroids for improving body image or cosmetic reasons. 

The campaign launched today and will run for three weeks, so keep an eye out for more to come. You can check out the campaign on UKAD’s website here, and on our Instagram channel here