Steroids and IPEDs (Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs)

Image and Performance Enhancing Drugs (IPED) are a large group of various drugs which are used to affect physical, mental or sexual performance or appearance. The most commonly used IPED are anabolic steroids and are taken mostly by men, to increase their muscle size and strength. Other IPED include Human Growth Hormone, Insulin, hCG, Tanning Drugs, Peptides, Weight Loss Drugs, Botox and Cosmetic Fillers. The rest of this page refers specifically to anabolic steroid use. Visit the Drugs information page for information on other substances.

How do steroids and IPEDs affect wellbeing?

Most IPED users do not consider themselves to be drug users and view their use as part of a health regime to improve their strength and appearance. Whilst steroids do not create a high or altered mental state like other drugs they do create a physical reliance and can cause dependence. IPED use is often linked to other problems such as poor mental health, liver and heart problems, sexual dysfunction, body dysmorphia, and blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis A, B and C.

Anabolic steroids are drugs that mimic the effects of the male sex hormones testosterone and dihydrotestosterone. They increase protein synthesis within cells resulting in the build-up of cellular tissue (anabolism) in the muscles. Anabolic steroids are frequently used on combination with other IPED such as injectable tanning agents and weight loss drugs. Most IPED are self-prescribed, bought on the black market or from a dealer in the gym.

The use of any image and performance enhancing drugs can cause serious health problems including dependence and permanent damage to the heart and liver. Other commonly experienced side effects include depression, increased anger, emotional instability, insomnia, stunted growth and libido problems.

Whilst some of the side effects of using IPED can occur very quickly, others can take longer to manifest, such as: acne, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, liver/kidney problems, heart problems, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, infertility, long term low testosterone levels, depression, aggression and an increased risk of cancer.

IPED that are used for rapid weight loss (sometimes known as 'fat burners') have been found to include particularly dangerous substances in their composition. One of these substances, a compound called DNP (2, 4-Dinitrophenol) has been linked with a number of deaths.

How can I improve my wellbeing?

You could achieve the same physical changes caused by steroids through exercise, rest, a healthy diet and lifestyle. Whilst adopting this approach will give you slower results the effects will be longer lasting, safer, and provide significantly more long-term health and fitness benefits.

When using steroids you should take them for the shortest period ('cycle') of use possible. Having longer breaks between cycles can help to reduce (but not remove) some of the risks to your long-term health. You should avoid using a lot of drugs in combination ('stacking') as this increases your risk of harm significantly. The process of rapidly building muscle and gaining weight ('bulking') followed by rapidly losing body fat and weight to become lean ('cutting') should also be avoided. Cycles of bulking and cutting can cause your body additional stress and in particular cause permanent damage to organs such as the liver, kidneys and heart.

You may find support for your emotional well-being such as confidence building and positive self-image work may be beneficial in helping you to understand your feelings about your image and body. Counselling or help from a dedicated drug and alcohol service can help you with reducing dependence, anger management and mental health problems that can occur with IPED use.

Have regular health checks to monitor your wellbeing with a healthcare professional. The Juice Bar has regular drop in sessions in the East Riding where you can get advice and medical guidance. At the Juice Bar you can also receive advice on safer injecting, needle exchange services and testing for blood borne viruses.

If you experience any side effects from IPED use or have concerns about how they may have affected your health you should seek medical advice from your GP. Use the services below for further confidential advice and support.

Getting help and support

Search the Community directory for local groups, clubs, small charities, volunteer-run and social support near you.

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Search the Services directory for local and national services and support you can contact in person, online and over the phone.

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How to help others

How can I help a teenager?

Anabolic steroids accelerate bone growth and, when used by teenagers, can cause premature ageing of the bones and stunt their growth. For help and support, free and confidential advice can be found at The Juice Bar .

How can I help an adult friend or relative?

Many steroid users are already aware of some of the dangers and have most likely already experienced some side effects. You can help your friend or relative by encouraging them to have a check-up with a healthcare professional and to seek further advice. The treatment for dependence to anabolic steroids is similar to that of other types of drug. Free and confidential advice can be accessed at The Juice Bar

I'm a care worker. How can I help my client?

Contact the The Juice Bar for further information, support and guidance about IPED use.

How can I help people in the workplace?

The use of anabolic steroids can cause aggressive behaviour, mood swings, mania, hallucinations and delusions. Employers should have policies in place to help staff with their mental and physical health and to ensure safe working. If you are concerned that a colleague's IPED use is placing them or others at risk follow the advice above on how to approach them and encourage them to contact The Juice Bar for further support and guidance.

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