INJECTING steroids to increase muscle bulk has now overtaken heroin use in Eastbourne, with boys as young as 16 and 17 wanting the perfect body.
The dangers of taking steroids and the increasing amount of men taking them was highlighted at the inquest into the death of Lewis Allan on Thursday (March 29).
Coroner Alan Craze found the 23-year-old died of natural causes but had taken steroids in the past which could have caused the heart failure he suffered.
In evidence heard at the inquest, Julie Barton, from a needle and syringe programme in the town, said Lewis had been supplied with the needles he needed to take steroids on only two occasions in the summer of 2011, before his death in October.
She explained the programme she worked on aimed to make safe needles available to drug users.
“It is about harm prevention,” said Ms Barton. “It is important to make sure needles are available and are not shared.
“We are not going to stop it [drug use] so we might as well make it safe.”
Ms Barton said her service worked with all types of drug users including heroin and crack cocaine users.
However, she said there had been a shift in their service with more and more people coming in to pick up syringes and needles for the purpose of injecting performance and image enhancing drugs.
She said, “We are seeing a lot fewer heroin users now and the use of performance enhancing drugs [steroids] has increased.
“Steroids are now our number one drug – it used to be heroin but it has spun around.”
Ms Barton said the risks involved in taking steroids included strokes, heart problems and death.
She explained she had worked with steroid users for 10 years and although she had not come across a death before, there had been numerous health problems resulting from the muscle bulking substances.
Ms Barton said, “We warn them of the risks but it is their choice if they are over 18. We have a special service for those under 18.
“Steroid use is on the increase and the young lads are getting younger. We have got 16 and 17-year-olds coming in now.
“While we provide them with safe needles, we try and look at healthier ways to gain muscle with gym and diet.”
Detective Constable Michael Kent, who specialises in performance and image-enhancing drugs, said many of the steroids were legal when prescribed for medicinal reasons.
He said they were often bought over the internet by people wanting to increase their muscles and while it is not illegal to possess them for personal use, the supply of such drugs is against the law.