More young men in East Riding injecting steroids ‘to look good’

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Steroids have become a “short cut to an attractive physique” for increasing numbers of young men in the East Riding, according to a new report.

A report into drug use in the East Riding says numbers using heroin and crack cocaine are declining. But among the drugs coming to the fore are performing and image-enhancing drugs.

Steroids, once the preserve of bodybuilders, are the most common and are used by recreational gym users and amateur sportsmen, often in their 20s, to improve their looks as well as their athletic prowess.

Now one in ten of the needle exchange packs issued in the East Riding are for injecting steroids.

Tony Margetts, the report’s author, said there had been a “marked increase” in the numbers using steroids, which have been linked with a number of psychological and physical effects, ranging from cardiovascular to mental health problems.

“Several hundred” people are estimated to use the drugs, with 100 using the special injecting kits, while others buy theirs on the street or on the Internet.

Mr Margetts, East Riding Council’s substance misuse manager, added: “We are seeing people turn up at minor injury units who have injected into veins not the muscle, which can mean they get phlebitis or inflammation. It’s not a particularly brilliant idea to fill yourself up with a synthetic testosterone in the first place – just stick to weights.

“Long-term heavy use is undoubtedly very dangerous.”

The report says the number of “problem” drug users has fallen slightly both nationally and locally and those being treated for heroin addiction are an “aging” population.

It says turning the corner on heroin is “good news” but authorities need to be alert to the wide array of other drugs ranging from valium-type benzodiazepenes to painkillers like cocodamol, which used to be available only on prescription but can now be bought on the internet. Users “often defy popular stereotypes of drug users and may be middle-aged, otherwise law-abiding, working or retired.”

In the East Riding over £2m is spent on treatment for drugs - far more than the £300,000 spent on specialist services for people with serious alcohol problems.

The University of Glasgow estimated that in 2009-2010 there were 1,165 “problem” drug users in the East Riding, over local estimates which suggest there are around 1,000.

Over the last year 570 were in treatment and figures suggest the area is one of the most successful in the country when it comes to the number who complete their treatment, with 14 per cent doing so, over the national average of just nine per cent.

While the report, which was being discussed by councillors yesterday, says investment in drug treatment is “effective and good value for money”, an accompanying report says more resources are needed to tackle alcohol abuse.

Nearly a quarter of people in the East Riding are drinking at higher than recommended levels, with 6.8 per cent in the “higher risk” category and 17.8 per cent defined as “increasing risk” drinkers – men who drink over three to four units a day and women who drink over two to three units a day.

There are a number of services available to people with alcohol problems – but access to only one detox bed, used by 40 people a year – and the report stresses the importance of support to people once they have detoxed. Research suggests that three months’ support – of the type provided by Alcoholics Anonymous – “greatly reduces the chances of relapse”.

It concludes: “There is a growing recognition of the harm caused by alcohol consumption above recommended levels. The level of resources is however not sufficient to fully meet the demand, which is likely to increasing costs elsewhere in the health service and to other agencies.

“This is both an opportunity and a challenge for all public service sectors in the East Riding.”