A new report has revealed that social media is fuelling a rise in the use of image and performance-enhancing drugs (IPEDs) among Scots, especially young men.
What are IPEDs and why are they used?
IPEDs are substances that are taken to improve one’s appearance, strength, or endurance. They include anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, fat burners, and stimulants. IPEDs are often injected, but can also be taken orally or applied as creams or gels.
Some of the reasons why people use IPEDs are:
- To enhance their athletic performance or physique
- To cope with stress, anxiety, or depression
- To boost their self-esteem or confidence
- To conform to social norms or expectations
- To experiment or have fun
What are the risks and harms of IPEDs?
IPEDs are not regulated or tested for safety, quality, or purity. They can have serious and potentially fatal side effects, such as:
- Liver damage or failure
- Kidney damage or failure
- Heart problems or strokes
- Blood clots or infections
- Hormonal imbalances or infertility
- Mood swings or aggression
- Acne or hair loss
- Gynecomastia or breast development in men
- Virilization or masculinization in women
IPEDs can also cause psychological dependence, addiction, or withdrawal symptoms. They can interfere with other medications or treatments, and increase the risk of contracting or transmitting blood-borne diseases such as HIV or hepatitis.
How prevalent is IPED use in Scotland?
According to the report by the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF), IPED use is increasing in Scotland, especially among young men aged 16 to 24. The report estimates that there are between 10,000 and 30,000 IPED users in Scotland, based on needle exchange data and surveys.
The report also found that IPED users are diverse and come from different backgrounds, occupations, and lifestyles. They include bodybuilders, athletes, gym-goers, military personnel, security staff, and recreational drug users.
How does social media influence IPED use?
The report claims that social media is a major factor in driving IPED use, as it exposes users to unrealistic and idealized images of bodies and fitness. Social media also provides a platform for IPED users to share their experiences, advice, and sources of supply.
The report states that social media can create a “pressure cooker” environment, where users feel compelled to use IPEDs to achieve or maintain a certain look or performance. Social media can also normalize or glamorize IPED use, and create a false sense of security or trust among users.
What are the recommendations of the report?
The report calls for more awareness, education, and support for IPED users, as well as better regulation and monitoring of IPED supply. Some of the recommendations of the report are:
- To develop and deliver targeted and tailored interventions for IPED users, such as harm reduction, counselling, and recovery services
- To train and equip health and social care professionals to identify and respond to IPED use and related issues
- To improve the data collection and analysis of IPED use and its impacts
- To engage with IPED users and communities to understand their needs and perspectives
- To review and update the legal and policy frameworks around IPED use and supply
The report also urges IPED users to seek help and advice from reliable and credible sources, and to be aware of the risks and harms of IPED use.