Young and well…but wanting to look better

Weigh it up – things are not always as they appear.

Everbody wants to look good, and finding short-cuts to perceived perfection seems like a good idea, but is it really that easy and or safe?

Whether it’s the latest fad diet, fake tan, or other quick-fix, the message is always ‘buyer beware’, especially as we approach another summer and the thought of strutting our stuff by the pool, or on the beach.

Over recent years Australia has seen an increase in the use of Performance and Image Enhancing Drugs (PIEDs), commonly referred to as steroids or ‘roids’. It’s a growing phenomenon among (mostly) younger guys who, over the last decade, have followed the trend in sculpting bodies to achieve the perfect idealised shape, size and colour.

Most PIEDs users are healthy young men who do not perceive themselves as drug users, yet the most common drugs injected are steroids.

Known as roids, the gear, juice, steroids themselves require intramuscular injections, while additional drugs such as peptides and hormones are injected below the skin. They’re synthetic substances which mimic the effect of testosterone to build muscle quickly compared to the length of time it would take to build muscle with exercise alone.

But PIEDs are not without risks.

Short term issues can include injection related injuries such as infection, abscesses, allergies, nerve damage and risk of blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B and HIV. While other health concerns include acne, headaches, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, muscle and tendon injuries.

Over a longer time, issues for guys include breast enlargement known as gynaecomastia (commonly referred to as bitch tits), liver damage, stunted growth, mood swings, baldness and shrunken testes or impotence.
For women, side effects include increased facial hair, clitoral enlargement, deepened voice, amenorrhoea (loss of periods) and hair falling out.

The Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) has been at the pointy end of the PIEDs trend because it is the most accessible service to obtain injecting equipment. It also offers non-judgemental information, education and referral, as well as disposal facilities for used needles. The NSP has service outlets located across the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District – so check out the directory compiled by Hepatitis NSW.

Although steroids are not addictive, people can find themselves relying on them to build confidence and self-esteem. This reliance can make it difficult to stop using them in the longer term. Fear of losing muscle size or definition can lead to depression and the pressure to continue use. For help with PIEDs issues talk to your GP.

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Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District