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Author Topic: Tom's been using performance-enhancing drugs for eight years ...  (Read 1174 times)

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Tom's been using performance-enhancing drugs for eight years, and like many others, he feels trapped in a cycle

June 8, 2021

A comment on his "pale" skin was one of the triggers that sent Tom towards performance and image-enhanging drugs.

At 29, Tom* has used performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) for the past eight years.

"The average person looking at a fitness model on social media wouldn't realise most of them are juiced up," the Queensland lawyer says.

"A lot of fitness people deny using drugs to get their bodies looking that way because of sponsorships."

PIEDs are often used to change a person's physical appearance or enhance their sporting performance.

They include substances like anabolic steroids, weight loss drugs and even injectable substances that can help a person tan if their natural limits prohibit them from doing so.

Key points:
  • Experts suspect the use of performance and image-enhancing drugs is much higher than reported
  • Doctors say users often delay seeking help for fear of judgment
  • The use of these drugs can be linked to secret desires to look better, especially for men, according to researchers
"There's definitely a correlation between how I'm
 looking, my fitness levels and my confidence,"
 Tom says.

According to the Australia Talks National Survey 2021, one in three men aged 25-29 say looking at what other people post on social media makes them feel worse about themselves.

Tom doesn't believe he's the "typical" gym junkie. He's not noticeably muscular and doesn't spend all day in the gym. But, despite being aware of the illegality of these substances, it's a risk he takes regularly.

In Australia, it's illegal to manufacture, import, possess or supply steroids without a prescription or medical practitioner licence. Penalties vary for each Australian state and territory.

According to the most recent Australian Needle and Syringe Program Survey (ANSPS), Tom's story isn't an isolated one. The survey showed PIEDs were reported as the last drug injected by between 4 per cent and 7 per cent of respondents over the period 2012 to 2019.

Two-thirds of the respondents were male, and according to Jenny Iverson, one of the report's authors, almost a third of users were new.

"Our data indicates that over the last five years just under one third of people who participated in the ANSPS who reported last injecting PIEDs were 'new initiates'," Dr Iverson says.

Given the way these drugs are acquired and used, experts believe the number of users could be far greater than research suggests.

A slippery slope

Tom says his PIED use hasn't been without side effects.

He experienced a crippling lack of libido and sexual dysfunction for months after using for the first time.

"I had the testosterone levels of a 60-plus-year-old at 21," he says.

"It was a six-week cycle, and I suffered the consequences for months after."

He also lost a lot of the progress he made in the gym once he stopped taking the drug.

"It's part of the cost of these things,
you've got to stay on them
to keep your results."

He also injects a drug widely used to help achieve a natural-looking tan.

"I had a girlfriend who got in my head when I was younger about being too pale and she'd encourage me to visit solariums, which didn't help," he says.

"That was the gateway and once I was there, it kind of opened up the possibilities for injecting other drugs like testosterone."

Don't be afraid to ask for help

Ada Cheung, a specialist endocrinologist from Melbourne, says one of the dangers of taking PIEDs is not really knowing what you might be buying online.

She says some of the common side effects and risks associated with the abuse of PIEDs include, but aren't limited to: infertility, shrinking testes, high blood pressure, acne, liver and heart problems, increased aggression and irritability, prostate enlargement, gynecomastia (development of breast tissue in males) and a triggering of hair loss if you are genetically predisposed.

Dr Cheung says people often take other drugs in conjunction to try to mitigate the side effects of the initial drug.

"People take one thing, then take another thing to counter the side effect of the first thing this which in turn has side effects," she says.

"It's a vicious cycle."

Dr Cheung says users often avoid seeking medical advice for fear of judgement. But she urged users not to be afraid of seeking medical help.

"We might not be able to convince you to stop but we can monitor things like your blood pressure, take blood tests and make sure we minimise the harm abusing these drugs may have," Dr Cheung says.

The 'secret' desire to look better

Tom says the desire to be noticeably "fit" was not just to look better. He says it gave him confidence and helped him signal qualities beyond just looks.

"Discipline, hard work, self-control and generally having your shit together," he says.

Psychologist Scott Griffiths's work investigates body image, eating disorders, muscle dysmorphia, anabolic steroid use, and the stigmatisation of mental disorders and related behaviours.

He says the social capital from having a fit, muscular physique is only increasing over time.

"You can walk around as the physical manifestation of what you eat and how you look after yourself, quite literally," Dr Griffiths says.

"You should never underestimate how deeply held and secretive people's desires to look better can be.

"This is especially true for men."

People using PIEDs often wait too long to seek help, doctors say

Dr Griffiths says there is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting to look better, but if it becomes an obsession leading to destructive, high-risk behaviours, then it's a problem.

"In my mind the greatest set of side effects aren't the physical costs and harms, it's the psychological costs when you become dependent on them," he says.

Dr Griffiths says there needs to be a cultural reckoning with how much value people place on appearance and how much appearance should influence success.

"Because if you ask people explicitly how much appearance should matter, they downplay it and say it shouldn't, but when you look at how people are spending their money and what their insecurities are over the span of a lifetime, its right up there all the time," he says.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2021, 08:06:23 PM by Chip »
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I do not condone or support any illegal activities. All information is for theoretical discussion and wonder.
All activities discussed are considered fictional and hypothetical. Information of all discussion has been derived from online research and in the spirit of personal Freedom.


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