Steroid awareness initiative takes off

Community engagement co-ordinator Wayne McGarrigan, team manager of Greater Manchester West Trust Aron Moss and health care worker Helen Sharples in the needle exchange, at the Coops Building, Wigan
Community engagement co-ordinator Wayne McGarrigan, team manager of Greater Manchester West Trust Aron Moss and health care worker Helen Sharples in the needle exchange, at the Coops Building, Wigan

An awareness campaign warning about the dangers of using anabolic steroids is to be launched in Wigan.

Following on from the Wigan Observer’s hard-hitting Sted Alert investigation, public health experts hope the new initiative will “cut through the myths” about steroid use.

Primarily targeting teenagers and young adults, the town hall led Danger InSteds campaign will highlight both the physical and mental effects of using the class C drug.

Professor Kate Ardern, director of public health at Wigan Council, said: “We are launching this campaign to give people all the facts about this drug, not just the hearsay they might get from people peddling lies about its safety.”

The Observer’s Sted Alert investigation - featured throughout December - heard from drug workers, health experts and users themselves about a growing culture of steroid use in the borough.

Mr Phil Harris, clinical lead at Wrightington Hospital’s new fertility unit, warned that startling numbers of Wiganers are now struggling to conceive due to past use.

Meanwhile, one long-term user told of an ingrained culture within the borough’s gyms.

And staff at one of the town’s needle exchanges said the most frequent visitors were steroids users who often show concerning levels of ignorance about the health side effects.

The apparent ease in which the substances - either injectable liquids or pills and tablets - can be obtained plus the perils of buying illicit goods online were also highlighted.

Prof Ardern added: “We know that steroids are incredibly easy to buy and as the season for new fitness and diets is now here we are encouraging people to reach those goals the natural way rather than opting for a seemingly quick fix which can end up having a lifetime of consequences.

“Those consequences can have a wider impact not just on users but also their families as that paranoia and aggression while using can play a role in things like domestic violence.

“It is also important to remember that injecting any drug can also bring other risks from the use of dirty needles which can transmit blood borne viruses such as HIV and hepatitis.”

The Danger InSteds campaign will be launched in the spring and will feature members of the borough’s public health teams setting up street stalls across the borough.

The impact on mental (paranoia, aggressive behaviour) and physical (impotence, muscle injury, cardiovascular problems) health will be highlighted, the town hall has said.

Prof Ardern said: “We know some people may be persuaded to give anabolic steroids a go by people already using it who say they have not suffered any side effects and may think they are ‘experts’ in its use.

“But they won’t tell you about the paranoia and anger it can provoke in you or the damage it can do to your looks with acne, baldness and breast growth all side effects from this drug.”