Steroid users in Dublin ‘intimidated by atmosphere’ in needle exchanges

Breakfast reporter Kieran Cuddidy looks at the increasing popularity of steroids

Steroid users in Dublin ‘intimidated by atmosphere’ in needle exchanges

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A homeless and drug agency in Dublin moved its service for steroid users to another city-centre location to accommodate those who don’t want to mix with heroin users.

Merchants Quay Ireland (MQI) opened up a dedicated needle exchange on Capel St six weeks ago to deal with the growing number of people using steroids to “improve” their bodies.

Steroid users generally have their own home and job, meaning some are wary of approaching services for homeless people who take drugs, according to Mark Kennedy of MQI.

"The typical steroid users that we see would be young males, from about 18 to mid-30s," he told Newstalk Breakfast reporter Kieran Cuddihy.

"A lot of them would be in work - educated people - not the classic people you would see presenting to a homeless service like Merchants Quay."

Kennedy said the Capel St service, which runs on Tuesday evenings, was set up in response to a survey of steroid users.

"That’s recognising the fact that people who wouldn’t be used to coming into a homeless service can be very intimidated by the atmosphere. Sometimes people have to queue up outside.

"And often they may be in work [so] the time of day might not be the most convenient for them."

One steroid user called Joe Fitzpatrick, from Portlaoise, has been taking them on and off for around a decade.

A keen bodybuilder, he plans to start another six-week cycle next month, and he told Kieran that he sees no danger in doing so.

"I worked with a fella who used to go drinking at the weekend, snorting coke. He wouldn’t sleep or eat.

"He told me steroids are bad for the heart. The way I was looking at it, I was going home from work in the evening, I was going training.

"I wasn’t drinking, I wasn’t taking drugs. Fair enough, I was injecting steroids, but the lifestyle I was living was 10 times healthier than his."

Fitzpatrick added that he injected steroids straight into his hip, saying he thought this a “cleaner way” than taking tablets.

The overall number of steroid users in Ireland is difficult to measure, but the practice appears to be booming.

Many are easily available online, and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) seized 38,049 doses in 2015 alone.

Experts warn, however, that users risk incurring significant physical and psychological harm. 

Dr Ray Walley, an IMO committee member, told Kieran that people in gyms are taking between 10 and 100 times the dose of steroids that any doctor in Ireland can legally prescribe.

As for the side effects, he said: "You have the danger of high blood pressure and psychiatry problems. You can become irritable, stressed, anxious. You can get liver problems, thinning of the bones.

"The paradox is that there are a group of people out there who are taking it to be 'body beautiful' but [if you’re a man] it reduces your sperm count, shrinks your testicles and gives you breast development."