The public tends to associate anabolic steroid abuse with elite athletes due to headline news in the newspapers, unaware that abuse also occurs in the local gyms. Regular users may be suspicious of some members of their local gym, or is it just envy? Studies have shown, however, that in some gyms over 50% of members may be taking steroids, and includes both men and women. Abusers tend to start taking steroids in their teens and some even as young as 12 years. Because many are involved in sport the reasons for taking steroids are the same as with elite athletes, namely increased speed, strength and endurance. Additional reasons include improved physique to attract the opposite sex and as an outcome following rape.
The side effects of anabolic steroid abuse are not insignificant and advice for safe administration may be lacking. GPs may have a role in counselling abusers as long as they recognise the signs of abuse; that is, of course, as long as they themselves are not the source of steroids! There are some common side effects, such as acne and gynaecomastia, that could well be reasons to present at the GPs surgery. Studies indicate that GPs are, however, poorly trained in this area of medicine and require specific training and education.