In the past, discussion of steroid abuse and testing has centred around the sports world. And while steroid misuse in sports is still a concern, there is now increasing evidence of widespread use in the workplace and in the home. As a result, employers across a range of sectors - as well as family lawyers - are now seeking accurate, fast steroid testing services.
Over the last decade, steroid use has increased by 600%. Since anabolic steroids are a Class C drug, personal possession is not criminalised, so many go undetected - meaning the official figures of 60,000 are probably the tip of the iceberg. In fact, researchers behind the National Image & Performance Enhancing Drugs Survey estimate there could be as many as one million anabolic steroid users in the UK.
For employers and family lawyers, this worrying trend is - in the words of Public Health England - an emerging public health problem.
What do we mean by ‘steroid abuse’?
The term ‘steroid’ is a blanket name, commonly used to refer to any number of synthetic testosterone derivatives, or growth hormone enhancers, taken either orally or injected. These drugs - anabolic steroids - increase the level of testosterone produced naturally in the body.
This accelerates the rate of muscle growth, enhances tolerance to repeated exercise, and increases typically male characteristics, such as weight and body hair. Individuals who develop a psychological dependency often start with a desire to ‘bulk up’.
The list of anabolic steroids commonly used for muscle building is lengthy, but includes:
- DHEA supplements - DHEA (short for the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone) acts as a precursor to testosterone production in the body
- Testosterone enanthate - one of the most commonly used steroids, and therefore often a first-timer’s choice
- Testosterone cypionate - a popular synthetic form of testosterone, widely used
- Nandrolene - popular with bodybuilders, sportsmen and gym-goers
- Trenbolene - popular in UK gyms, but with serious physical side effects
Key note: there is a significant difference between anabolic steroids and medically prescribed corticosteroids, which are used to treat inflammatory conditions from Crohn's disease to rheumatoid arthritis.
What sectors are at risk?
Steroid misuse is a particular - and increasing - concern for those working in jobs which class extreme fitness and physical strength as desirable attributes. There is, therefore, a natural - if worrying - confluence between steroid abuse and the public services.
In the US, the association between law enforcement and steroid misuse is not new: many commentators fear a correlation between steroid side effects and allegations of police brutality. Steroids are of rising concern for UK police forces, too: in 2013, a report found abuse of anabolic steroids to be a major contributing factor in cases of officer corruption. In some cases - such as ex-Metropolitan Police Officer Justin Weaver - individuals progress to supplying steroids themselves. Clearly, any substance which puts public trust and safety at risk is hugely problematic: even more so for police forces who demand scrupulous honesty and integrity from their employees.
Documented side effects include paranoia and aggression: a volatile mix where the public is concerned, made all the more alarming when combined with active duty in a warzone scenario. Between 2012 and 2015, 250 troops were dismissed from the Armed Forces after testing positive for steroid use, compared to only 25 in 2009. And a recent report by The Sun put this figure at 1,000. Cases such as ex-Royal Marine John Salthouse, who took his own life after experiencing steroid-related rage spells, are becoming more commonplace.
Occupational users are also found in the fire and security services, making steroid use a major concern to employers where public safety and trust is at stake, as well as anyone with safety critical responsibilities. By way of extreme example, it transpired in the aftermath of the 2016 Orlando shooting that the gunman - Omar Mateen - had been an armed G4S security guard, with a history of taking steroids.
Steroid misuse isn’t only associated with traditionally physical jobs: NICE has unearthed a worrying trend of young professionals taking them, too. Jim McVeigh, Director at the Centre for Public Health, believes office workers turn towards steroids as an outlet for white-collar, work-related aggression, coupled with a societal pressure for a desirable masculine aesthetic.
Steroids are increasingly linked with cases of domestic abuse, such as that of Scott Ross, who violently assaulted his girlfriend Nicola Currie after she confronted him over his usage. While causal links are notoriously difficult to establish, anecdotal evidence shows a clear relationship between steroids and domestic abuse: Rachel Williams endured 18 years of abuse at the hands of her husband, who was on a combination of steroids and antidepressants.
What are the implications?
Any potentially addictive substance is of relevance for family lawyers: research shows that substance misuse of any kind is a factor in over half of high-risk domestic abuse cases. A substance - such as steroids - with known links to violent episodes and hallucinations presents an especially compelling cause for concern. Added to this, a cohort study by Public Health Wales showed that 28.7% of steroid users had also used psychoactive drugs in the last month, introducing further risks of instability.
Detection of steroid use and abuse can be fast and noninvasive. A simple hair test takes three days for the test and written results. It's a fast and cost effective way to understand an individual's situation. It’s always good to save money, the more critical benefit is the time saved. The biggest application for steroid hair testing is child protection agencies including family law solicitors where potential steroid use is a risk to the child due to the potential side effects of use but the tests are an excellent option for employers and concerned family members too.
The implications of steroid misuse have potentially devastating consequences both at home and in the workplace. It is therefore vital for employers and family lawyers to undertake steroid testing, to accurately build a careful and detailed case picture.
Cansford Laboratories now offer fast, reliable, affordable steroid testing - right here in the UK. Check out our credentials.
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