Drug services are 'patchy' and 'need to cater for teens'
Almost 130 adult steroid users presented to one clinic in the past six months - but a leading HSE psychiatrist has warned adolescent drug services are "patchy" and teens may have nowhere locally to turn.
Coroner Philip Comyn warned earlier this week about the dangers of steroid use after sports-loving 18-year-old Luke O'Brien May, from Grange, Co Limerick, died after taking the drug.
Luke became ill while doing his Leaving Cert. He was seen for a suspected vomiting bug and was hospitalised on June 13, 2017, at University Hospital Limerick. He was transferred to Cork University Hospital where he died.
Dr Robert Plant told the inquest a CT scan revealed a "devastating" swelling of the brain.
Merchants Quay Ireland, a Dublin drug help service, reported 127 steroid users had used its needle exchange service from January to June this year - 125 of these were men and just two were women. The majority were aged over 45.
Merchants Quay chief executive Tony Geoghegan said: "It's almost 50-50 the reasons why young men are taking steroids. For some it's for sport and competitions, particularly bodybuilding.
"But for others it's for vanity. They want to look good and these young men account for a slightly higher proportion of steroid users that we see."
Dr Gerry McCarney, HSE consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, said that anecdotally they have heard of the drug being used by teenagers.
But only one adolescent has presented to the HSE community services with steroid addiction.
"The first thing to say is the service for adolescents using drugs is patchy throughout the country. We have two dedicated HSE teams, both based in Dublin, but we need to progress," he told the Irish Independent.
"In relation to steroid use in teenagers, we have seen very little of this...only one adolescent was treated for steroids.
"Most of the people who present are over 18 and in their 20s and 30s and that's not to say teenagers are not using steroids - we hear anecdotally that the drug is indeed being used by adolescents."
Dr McCarney said teenagers would often need to rely on community-based services, but there are few of these for adolescent drug users and most are based in Dublin.
He advised teenagers who are using steroids to log onto Drugs.ie or phone the HSE's Drug and Alcohol Helpline on 1800 459 459.
He believes many teenagers probably leave their addiction until it has spiralled completely out of control, and finally seek help when they are over 18 but with his advice teenagers could now link into help services on a confidential basis.