Health chiefs say illegal steroid use remains “unacceptably high” after new figures show that almost 100,000 steroid tablets were seized last year.
The Health Products Regulatory Authority said the risks posed by these “highly potent” substances is real and could include heart failure, liver and kidney damage.
Steroids account for nearly a sixth of the almost 620,000 illegal medicines confiscated by the authority last year.
Sedatives remain the biggest category of products seized, reflecting the scale of illicit street trade in sedatives among drug users, with erectile dysfunction medication coming in second, followed by steroids.
The HPRA said that ten prosecutions were initiated in 2018 and that a further 14 voluntary formal cautions were issued.
“We remain concerned that members of the public are continuing to put their health at significant risk by buying medicines from unverified and unregulated sources,” said HPRA director of compliance, John Lynch. “Analysis of the figures shows that there is a continuing and worrying trend of consumers in Ireland seeking to source illegal prescription medicines.”
Mr Lynch said that while total numbers have gone down, more than 4m units of illegal prescription medicines have been seized in the past five years.
Mr Lynch pointed out that the supply of prescription medicines by mail order (including the internet) is prohibited.
Citing the launch of their steroid information campaign (‘Zero Gains’) last October, he said the number of illegal anabolic steroids seized remains “unacceptably high”:
This indicates a continued demand among some people for these highly potent prescription medicines despite the fact that their sale and supply to the public outside of a registered pharmacy is illegal.
HSE figures show that the number of emergency inpatient cases related to steroid use has more than doubled in the past six years from 174 in 2011 to 398 in 2017.
Jim O’Sullivan, who runs Rivers Edge Fitness on O’Sullivan’s Quay, Cork, said that with a huge increase in participation rates in sport in recent years has come “all sorts of unscrupulous and unregulated activities”, ranging from poor quality instructors to the “darker side of steroid use and abuse”, particularly among young men.