Doctor warn of steroid dangers
Young men are faking hormone-related disorders to get steroids so they can bulk up, a doctor says.
Waitemata DHB endocrinology specialist Steven Miller says the youths are motivated by a condition called body dysmorphia, much like anorexia in women.
"When they look in the mirror they think they look weedy but to you and I they are very heavily muscled."
And he says steroid abuse here is much worse than in the UK and on a par with Sydney, where it is a big problem.
The number of anabolic steroids seized by New Zealand Customs doubled in the year 2011 to 2012.
Dr Miller says it is something doctors are very much aware of and stringent testing is in place to deter those trying to cheat the system.
"There are definitely individuals who try to pull the wool over our eyes. They come to us pretending to exhibit symptoms so that we supply them with testosterone."
Endocrinologists treat patients with hormone disorders relating to a wide range of health conditions such as infertility, thyroid dysfunction, osteoporosis and adrenal dysfunction.
Testosterone replacement drugs like Sustanon and Reandron are often prescribed for a condition called hypogonadism, Dr Miller says.
Men with hypogonadism do not produce enough natural testosterone which can affect their masculine development and fertility. Young males wanting to build muscle fast are the most likely to try and get steroids illegitimately, Dr Miller says.
Doctor-prescribed testosterone is funded or subsidised by Pharmac making it much cheaper than products sold on the black market.
"The last time it happened a young man, I would say in his mid 20s, came to me with a sample report result from a lab in Australia suggesting that he had low testosterone levels.
"On further examination he had no abnormal results and was a healthy young man.
"It was very obvious he was trying to cheat the system, he was very sheepish and when I mentioned we would need to do further testing I never heard from him again."
It is not uncommon in his profession, Dr Miller says but he suspects GPs may have to deal with the tricksters more often.
"I would imagine it is rather harder for them to spot cheaters because they are general practitioners.
"But any doctor should be doing the appropriate biological tests before prescribing."
He says a simple blood test can determine whether or not a person truly needs a steroid to correct a deficiency.
Doctors are not required to report these attempts but Dr Miller says it is noted on the patient's hospital record.
So far no women have tried their luck at his clinic.
General abuse of anabolic steroids seems to have become more widespread here in recent years, Dr Miller says.
"I have encountered more of a problem here in the last three years than I did when I was in the UK.
"But I would say it is the same level as when I was working in Sydney."
The number of anabolic steroids seized by New Zealand Customs has risen 55 per cent in the past four years and doubled in the year 2011 to 2012.
A 2011 report from the Australian Crime Commission reported a 255 per cent increase in hormone and steroid seizures in the space of just one year.
Dr Miller puts the rise in demand down to young men becoming more conscious of their appearance.
"The drugs they would be getting on the black market are not produced in respected labs.
"They are made in clandestine labs where there is no control," he says.
"You just don't know what's in them."
Send us your comments firstname.lastname@example.org.
STEROID LAW It is illegal to sell steroids without a prescription. Steroid use has been banned in international sport and athletes can be disqualified if found using anabolic steroids. Under the Medicines Act steroid suppliers can face fines of up to $40,000 and six months imprisonment.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Are you heading out of Auckland on the Christmas, New Year break?