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#Steroid users at risk of HIV, Hepatitis B & Hepatitis C

Men who inject anabolic steroids and tanning drugs are at higher risk of HIV and viral hepatitis, according to a landmark study from Public Health England (PHE) published in BMJ Open on Friday 13th September.

The use of image and performance enhancing drugs has grown substantially over the last twenty years, but the risk of exposure to blood borne viruses among those who inject drugs to change their body appearance or improve their performance has rarely been studied.
Steroid abuse

Researchers from Public Health England and Liverpool John Moores University surveyed 395 men using image and performance enhancing drugs and found:

  • 1 in 18 injectors have been exposed to Hepatitis C
  • 1 in 11 have ever been exposed to Hepatitis B
  • 1 in 65 have HIV

The number of injectors of image and performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs) in contact with needle and syringe programmes (NSPs) has grown substantially in the UK, and there has been increasing concern about the use of IPEDs and the associated harms in the UK and elsewhere.

Jim McVeigh from the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University and co-author of the paper said:

“Injectors of anabolic steroids and associated drugs are now the biggest client group at many needle and syringe programmes in the UK. This research shows that anyone who injects drugs is at risk of HIV and other blood borne viruses, regardless of their substance of choice.

It is essential that all health services, together with the drug users themselves, are made aware of this and appropriate prevention interventions are developed.”

Warwickshire’s Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) is working closely with The Recovery Partnership to tackle the issue of steroid abuse in the county and in Coventry.

Research shows that between January 2012 and December 2012, almost one half (46%) of people who visited the needle exchange in Coventry declare using for steroid injection.

An estimated 42% of Warwickshire’s current drug-using population are Hepatitis C positive and 90% of new cases are caused by injecting drugs. 

To promote harm minimisation and safer injecting The Recovery Partnership manages 59 needle exchanges across Coventry and Warwickshire. This consists of 50 pharmacy based schemes, 5 agency based schemes, 1 A&E department, 2 specialist services for women in Coventry and 1 homeless service in Coventry. There are 25 pharmacy based needle and syringe programmes in Warwickshire and 25 pharmacy based needle and syringe programmes in Coventry.

To find your local needle exchange programme please click here.

The DAAT’s recently developed steroid abuse campaign is the first of its kind. To find out more, get in touch: drugactionteam@warwickshire.gov.uk

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