The findings show that men using anabolic steroids (synthetic variations of testosterone) to improve strength and physical performance are often aware of the side effects but choose to continue taking them.
This raises serious concerns not only for their own health but that of future generations, since side effects are known to damage sperm as well as increase the risk of sexual dysfunction, heart disease and liver damage.
“These findings were surprising. Not only was the prevalence of steroid abuse high, knowledge of the damaging side effects was also high, yet this does not stop them taking them,” said Dr Mykola Lykhonosov from Pavlov First St Petersburg State Medical University in Russia.
For the study, Dr Lykhonosov and colleagues conducted an anonymous survey of men who regularly attend a gym, to assess their knowledge of, use of and attitude towards the health risks of anabolic steroids.
Of 550 respondents, 30.4% said they used steroids, 74.3% of users were aged 22 to 35 years old and 70.2% of users said they were aware of the side effects.
In addition, 54.8% of all respondents indicated that they would like to receive more expert information on steroids and their side effects.
“We need to tackle this growing public health problem, increasing awareness through the promotion of stories from former users, on how steroid abuse has negatively impacted on their health and lives, could be a good strong message to discourage abuse,” said Lykhonosov.
Anabolic steroids, such as synthetic variations of testosterone, are performance-enhancing hormones that increase muscle mass and boost athletic ability, which has led to their misuse and abuse by some, and men in particular.