Much has been made of the negative impact of airbrushing, media scrutiny and unrealistic fashion industry expectations as far as women’s bodies are concerned, but it’s not often that men’s body image comes to the fore. The shocking news released recently by CRI (Crime Reduction Initiatives) that anabolic steroid use increased by 645% between 2010 and 2013, however, suggests that we may have had our heads in the sand as to the extent of the pressure felt by men to conform to a certain Hulk Hogan-esque physique.
The CRI informed the BBC that in 2013 there were 2,161 steroid users; this figure was only 290 in 2010. While steroids are legal for personal use, they are nevertheless categorised as a class C drug and it is against the law to supply steroids to others. While steroids can boost muscle mass and help users maintain tougher training regimes, associated side effects include hair loss , acne , fertility, liver and heart problems. Despite the health risks, for some the temptation to resort to artificial methods is irresistible - on the surface they offer a golden ticket to impressive guns and superhero strength. When slogging away in the gym isn’t producing results, steroid injections can fast track your progress and apparent fitness.
Personal trainer and SP&Co founder Stephen Price thinks that our quick fix culture is partly to blame for an increase is steroid dependancy:
"Steroid use shows huge physical changes in a very short amount of time - we live in an era of transformation where instead of broadening our goals and looking at the bigger health picture, we rely on products that sell a solution based on time and not a lot else! If you see a product that promises a quick solution as opposed to a more prolonged effort, most people would go for the first one, regardless of any associated health drawbacks.
"Fancy smoothies, restrictive nutrition plans, intensive physical programmes and a conveyor belt of products - our culture revolves around changing us in the moment as opposed to reeducating ourselves to be able to look after our long term health. The more sustainable option inherently requires a change of behaviour and habits before change is seen as opposed to steroids and other speedy fixes that don't demand this but but do result in a negative pattern of behaviour."
In reality, injecting steroids to bulk up could take you as far from fit as it’s possible to get. Users often aren’t aware that the risks are the same as those faced drug abusers. Dirty needles increase the spread of infections such as HIV and hepatitis B and C, but syringe and needle exchanges are traditionally thought of as focusing on addictions to drugs such as heroin. The health watchdog NICE believes that it’s high time this approach and perception changed; updated guidelines stipulate that needle and syringe programmes should be adapted to steroid users. Specialist fitness and nutritional advice, visits to gyms and longer opening hours are to be introduced to combat the rise of steroid use, and in particular the proliferation of diseases associated with injecting them.
Have you or someone you know ever been tempted to turn to steroids? Do you think that men face the same body image burdens that women do? Comment below or tweet us @GetTheGloss .
For more information visit CRI.org.uk