Summer of Steroid abuse - is Britain sleep walking into a crisis?

John Wicks

John Wicks

on Jul 27, 2023

Festival season is in full swing (despite the gloomy weather!) and other summer entertainment such as love island underway. 

Tans, teeth and having a buff body is great but there is a darker side. It’s been described as a ‘emerging epidemic’  Recently, an item on ITV news claimed that half a million young men in the UK could face being addicted to steroids -  with fears the country could be "sleepwalking into a crisis".

Recognising Steriod Abuse

Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances that mimic the effects of testosterone, promoting muscle growth, increased strength, and improved athletic performance. These substances are sometimes abused by athletes, bodybuilders, and individuals seeking to enhance their physical appearance or performance.

It’s not always obvious when an individual is taking steroids, even when there’s significant body and muscle growth. Besides bouts of paranoia or anger, known more commonly as ‘roid’ rage’ – what you may not see are other body changes such as hypertension, decreased libido or heart arrhythmias.

Hair testing for steroid abuse

Hair testing for steroid abuse can detect the presence of anabolic steroids or their metabolites in a person's hair follicles. Its 'window of detection' is between seven days and six months, so is very suitable to detect repeated abuse over time. This type of testing is increasingly used in certain settings, such as:

1. Sports: Some sports organisations and anti-doping agencies use hair testing to identify athletes who may be using banned substances to gain a competitive advantage unfairly.

2. Workplace drug testing: In certain industries where drug use can pose safety risks, hair testing might be used as part of an employee screening process.

3. Legal proceedings: Hair testing results can be used as evidence in legal cases involving drug abuse allegations.

So can you cheat a Steroid drug test?

No. When a person consumes steroids, the body breaks down the substances into metabolites. The drugs and metabolites circulate in the bloodstream and are then transferred into hair fibres on the scalp and elsewhere.

It’s common to see people, particularly men, with a buffed body and clean shaven all over as a ‘bodybuilder standard’. But there are alternative samples we can take to ensure the drugs test goes ahead when there’s no head or body hair.

But what if there’s no hair on the head or anywhere?

Usually a hair sample similar to the width of a shoelace and is taken from the head or body. But if there’s no hair to be found anywhere on the donor (head or body) then our sample collections agents will clip a small sliver of nail from fingers and/or toes to test for steroid usage.

While hair testing is a valuable tool for detecting long-term steroid abuse, it is essential that the testing is performed by accredited laboratories and interpreted by qualified professionals to ensure accurate and reliable results. Cansford labs is the only lab accredited to UKAS ISO17025: 2017 for the analysis of hair for steroid abuse.

Have you got any questions or need advice?

If you have any questions or you need advice on drug and alcohol testing- including Steroids – then our service is free because we're here to help. All you have to do is either email or call us on 029 2054 0567. We've also got live chat on our website here.

For family law professionals, we have prepared free booklets giving more information about steroid abuse in your industry.

Family Law professionals Get your free ‘what you need to know about testing for Steroids’ brochure here   Social Workers Get your free ‘what you need to know about testing for Steroids’ brochure here








John Wicks

John Wicks

John Wicks is one of the UK's leading experts in drug testing and has been for over 25 years. He is CEO and co-founder of Cansford Laboratories, a drug and alcohol testing laboratory based in South Wales. John is one of the ‘original expert minds’ who alongside co-founder Dr Lolita Tsanaclis, is responsible for bringing hair testing to the UK.

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