Beyond the Bulk: The Dark Side of Steroid Abuse

Over the last few years, the UK has seen a rise in the use of anabolic steroids across fitness enthusiasts and wider demographics. This is a growing trend amongst young men, highlighting concerns about the impact these steroids can have on health and society.  

According to research by UKAD in 2020, it is estimated that one million people in the UK use steroids, predominantly young male users. Social media and celebrity culture dominate younger generations time and focus, showcasing unrealistic body types. Ultimately, this lures people into a false sense on wanting the impossible.  

Beyond the Bulk - Steriod Addiction

What Are Steroids?

Anabolic steroids are prescription-only medicines derived from testosterone, the primary male sex hormone.  Although steroids can be prescribed by medical professionals to treat conditions such as hormonal imbalances, delayed puberty, or muscle loss due to certain illnesses, steroids are often misused for non-medical purposes.  

Known to many as a ‘quick fix to get buff’, steroids are often illegally used as a performance-enhancing drug to increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance. They can accelerate the process of muscle development beyond what is achievable, creating a more muscular and defined physique.  

Steroids are often used in patterns called ‘cycling’. Cycling refers to intermittent use of steroids; taking them for a specific period followed by a period of abstinence or reduced dosage. The purpose of the cycling technique is to optimise the benefits of steroid use and minimise the potential risks and side effects.  

If you or someone you love is struggling with steroids, please call New Leaf for advice today.

What Is Causing the Rise in Steroid Abuse?

Media Influence  

The increasing popularity of steroid misuse in the UK is often linked to the impact of the desire to achieve an unrealistic body standard. With bulky bodies glorified in the media, the constant exposure to chiselled physiques has contributed to a cultural obsession with attaining the perceived ‘perfect’ body.   

The pumped-up biceps and toned torsos of men social media influencers and on TV shows are a huge contributing factor to the number of young males turning to steroid use. In previous years, reality shows like Love Island have been criticised for promoting unattainable body types.  


Easily Accessibility  

Steroids are becoming increasingly easy to purchase, which is another factor as to why usage is on the rise. Traditionally spaces for health and fitness improvement, gyms have become hubs where individuals seeking rapid physical transformations can easily access these performance-enhancing substances. 

Gyms aren’t the only thing facilitating the distribution of steroids; the online black market provides a convenient and accessible platform to purchase the drug. Underground websites offer an unregulated marketplace where steroids can be obtained without a prescription, allowing individuals to purchase steroids with anonymity.  


Body Dysmorphic Disorder  

Typically, people who misuse steroids also suffer with some sort of muscle/body dysmorphia.  Muscle dysmorphia, also known as bigorexia, is a condition that causes you to constantly think about building muscle on your body, triggering a preoccupation with the idea that your body is not muscular enough.  

If you are concerned about someone, please contact your local GP for further support and advise.  

The Effects of Steroid Use

Misuse of steroids can have a range of harmful effects on both physical and mental health, as well as potentially dangerous medical conditions. Physical symptoms include:  

  • Acne 
  • Fluid retention 
  • Hair loss 
  • Breast growth  
  • Sexual dysfunction 
  • Low sperm count 
  • Shrunken testicles 
  • Greasy/oily skin and hair  
  • Appetite changes 
  • Joint pains  

Phycological symptoms: 

  • Aggression and irritability  
  • Extreme mood swings  
  • Poor decision making  
  • Manic behaviour 
  • Hallucinations or delusions 


If you are concerned about changes in a loved one that include the symptoms, please contact your local GP for help and advice.  You can also call us at New Leaf for advice. 

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