In Australia young boys and men unsatisfied with how they look are being driven to steroid use – and society is partly to blame according to Scott Griffiths, a body image researcher.
“It's incredibly hard to get men and steroid users to talk about body image as the motivation for use,” Scott says.
“It's clear from the guys that I see in my office and in research that by and large they're not okay. It's fundamentally very distressing for them.
“We [society] discourage men from talking about their feelings, especially in connection to body image.”
In Australia steroid possession and use (unless prescribed by a doctor) is illegal. But that’s not stopping people from taking the drug.
Scott says around one third of the steroid users he’s seen has muscle dysmorphia, which corresponds to the level of steroid users that have steroid dependence he says.
He describes muscle dysmorphia as a sort of reverse anorexia.
“You might have someone who looks in the mirror [and] instead of seeing someone who is objectively very large, because guys with muscle dysmorphia are often very large, they see someone who's scrawny or obese…” he says.
And it’s for this reason that Scott thinks the laws around steroid use in Australia need to change.
“Deterrence through the law does not work and by and large, the demographic of steroid users in this country is not anti-social at all,” he says.
“They're white collar professionals in their mid-20s, early 30s who, by and large, have not been arrested let alone convicted of a crime but they are desperately unhappy with the way they look.”
Scott believes that Australia should follow the direction of other countries and make steroid use legal.
“Turning them away without addressing that underlying psychology, which is forced upon them, that is the social and cultural landscape that boys and men are growing up in, just seems to be a tragedy to me.”
From man to machine
Dave Crosland has used anabolic steroids on and off for 15 years.
He pushed his body to the ultimate limit when he underwent an experiment to see if he could get his weight to 200kg.
In the UK, his home country, steroids are legal and he believes the law in Australia is failing.
“It doesn't work like that, if it did we could tell people not to drink and nobody would drink,” he says.
“The fact is these drugs exist, at a lot greater levels than people are actually accepting, but the other problem with this is we don't actually know what these drugs do yet.”
While he says he is not an advocate of steroid use, having experienced first-hand the side effects of taking what he describes as “excessive” amounts, he is also not against it.
“I'm an advocate of personal choice and education,” he says.
Dave, who now works as a harm reduction counsellor, believes the fitness industry is helping fuel body dysmorphia.
“I didn't have body images issues when I started using steroids. I did when I stopped and a lot of that was down to the exposure to the fitness community.”
Catch up on the full episode of Sizing Up Steroids, below;