“They advised me to stop and explained I might feel depressed for a while. On the clenbuterol my weight had hovered around 8 stone – not the lightest I have been, but certainly the best weight for my height. When I came off them I was so down I didn’t feel like exercising at all and I went up to 9 and a half stone. I had to work b-ttransportation.com extra hard to get back into shape and am now around 8 stone 12 which I am happy with.” Side-effects like these are often the price to pay for long-term steroid use. Hair loss, acne, deepening of the voice, growth of body hair and smaller breasts are as common in women as shrunken testicles and enlarged breasts are in men.
- In Catherine’s case, the drugs she took came in tablet form, but many users progress to injectable steroids which are said to be less risky to the liver.
- “By far the biggest users of steroids are recreational users, including gay men and young women,” says Pat Lenehan, director of the Drugs and Sport Information Service, set up by the NHS, in Merseyside in 1994.
- On the website com, one of many virtual fanzines for users, dozens of women have posted entries about similar experiences.
- “Physically they are not addictive, but there’s certainly an element of psychological dependency as people get to the point when they think they can’t look good or workout without them,” he says.
- Fitness instructors and trainers tend to buy them in bulk to distribute them, almost certainly making a profit.
Both sexes, say the British Medical Association, are at higher risk of heart disease, liver disease and cancer. On the website com, one of many virtual fanzines for users, dozens of women have posted entries about similar experiences. “My friend and I are using Winstrol V, not a lot of it, but every week, as we both share the same ideas to look good,” says 25-year-old Nancy from New York. “I am usually calm, but I became very edgy at work and irritable at home. My boyfriend and I were rowing all the time,” she says.
In Catherine’s case, the drugs she took came in tablet form, but many users progress to injectable steroids which are said to be less risky to the liver. Most take a cycle of the drugs for six to 12 weeks and then break for a similar duration before repeating the pattern. Cycles cost as little as £25, although the average user pays £50, still making them barely more expensive than a supply of vitamins and minerals.
It is five months since Catherine completed her last cycle of steroids. “In a moment of weakness I confessed to my boyfriend who convinced me how stupid I had been,” she says. “I really didn’t know where to turn to ask for advice as nobody seemed to know much about these things and I didn’t feel comfortable about going to my GP. My boyfriend encouraged me to talk to someone at a drugs in sports clinic, which I did.
Steroids can stunt growth so that teenagers who use them reach only 95 per cent of their adult height. “There are the well-publicised risks to men and women – but we don’t yet know the full effects they could have on a woman’s reproductive systems,” he says. “When a young woman takes these drugs, the possibility of permanent damage is significant because their bodies are still maturing.”
Catherine believes she became hooked on the psychological effects of steroids within four months of first using them, something which Heron says is not unusual. “Physically they are not addictive, but there’s certainly an element of psychological dependency as people get to the point when they think they can’t look good or workout without them,” he says. “A lot of people complain of withdrawal symptoms such as depression and low mood swings when they come off steroids, even between cycles.”
Typical steroid users are no longer bulging-eyed beefcakes such as Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, banned from sport after testing positive for using the drug Winstrol. Last month, UK Sport announced that due to the emergence of more effective and less easily detected performance enhancers, hardly any professional sports people now use steroids. Last year, the British Medical Association estimated that steroid use was up to 13 per cent in some gyms around the country.
Many of the drugs originate either from parts of Europe or Mexico where it is possible to buy them over the counter at pharmacies. They are widely available over the internet – key in the word “steroids” and hundreds of mail order sites appear. Fitness instructors and trainers tend to buy them in bulk to distribute them, almost certainly making a profit.
“By far the biggest users of steroids are recreational users, including gay men and young women,” says Pat Lenehan, director of the Drugs and Sport Information Service, set up by the NHS, in Merseyside in 1994. “He told me they were the best fat burners around, but they might make me sweat and could affect my sleep patterns. He also said they would increase my libido.” In a BMA report published last year, one third of GPs questioned said they had seen patients who either freely admitted taking steroids or confessed when asked about various symptoms spotted by their doctor.
“At first I didn’t put it down to the clenbuterol until I was chatting to a friend at the gym who had tried something similar. She had stopped after it gave her panic attacks and palpitations. Another friend of hers almost lost her job because she began yelling at a colleague at work. In a way those stories comforted me – it seemed like everyone was at it.” “For starters I felt more enthusiastic about sex because I was generally less tired,” says Catherine. “But I also enjoyed the whole sex thing. Me and a girlfriend, who was also taking steroids , talked about how neither of us had ever had such powerful orgasms before. That is one of the real pluses of taking them.”
Three weeks later Catherine hired a personal trainer at her local gym to help her get results more quickly. “I was impatient and had really launched myself into the whole fitness thing by then,” she says. “When I told the trainer that I needed to be in shape quickly, he just said, ‘no problem, but we’ll need to look at your diet’. He then asked me if I’d be interested in taking a supplement that would help me replace fat with muscle. He told me it was a steroid substance. In the most recent survey of 14- to 15-year-olds, conducted by researchers at University of Essex three years ago, steroids were found to be the third most common drug offered after amphetamines and cannabis; more than 2 per cent of the teenage boys questioned admitted they had used them.