Thursday 18 July 2019

Karl Henry talks steroids: Social media generation needs to learn the risks far outweigh benefits

'At the moment, it's all about the six pack, and the big upper body look'
'At the moment, it's all about the six pack, and the big upper body look'
Karl Henry

Karl Henry

The increase in steroid use among young people is frightening, but not surprising.

For the social media generation, steroid use is seen as a quick way to get visible results.

More people than ever are taking steroids but may not be aware that cardiovascular disease, depression and suicide are all linked to usage.

It comes back to social media and the desire to look perfect online.

At the moment, it's all about the six pack, and the big upper body look.

Many men want to achieve that aesthetic within a short time frame.

Syringe with glass vials and medications pills drug
Syringe with glass vials and medications pills drug

And steroids can seem like a shortcut to getting the body you want.

There's a whole society of millennials who don't know the effects of steroids.

All they see are advertisements online pushing positive results.

As a result, their knowledge of these drugs is extremely limited and based almost exclusively on digital word of mouth.

They listen to people online who tell them, 'I took these, if you take them, you might get the same result.'

Many people have no clue what they're buying, or the dangers these drugs may have.

There's a lack of education and awareness and that's part of the problem.

The only way to get round that is to have a public awareness campaign, to show what happens if you take steroids.

Educate ourselves and each other and we'll have a better chance of preventing young people becoming dependent on drugs.

People need to be on the look out for tell-tale signs of steroid use, such as mood swings, hair growth and acne.

If you see a sudden change or a deepening of the voice, these are signs that a person could be taking steroids.

The main impact of steroids is that a person can recover from training a lot faster.

Some think, 'If I take them, I'll be a better player.'

The likes of the IRFU are becoming better at awareness in sport, but we need a much bigger nationwide campaign and not just within sports themselves.

Steroid use increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, depression and mental health issues.

It's also linked to suicide and aggression, so the benefits are heavily outweighed by the issues, problems and risk factors.

Steroids are also highly addictive and hard to come off - that is another aspect that just isn't discussed enough.

Becoming hooked on steroids can be extremely isolating.

I don't think young people are going for help because they simply don't know where to turn.

Information regarding where they can go to get help to get off steroids needs to be easily accessible.

It's good to start with parents, to raise awareness and ask them to watch out for tell-tale signs.

And also to ask young people if they think their friend might be taking steroids.

They can be vital in encouraging their friends to talk about it, admit they have a problem and take it from there.

It's also essential to let young people know publicly where to get help.


We know of drug advice services like Merchants Quay in Dublin, but where do teenagers under the age of 18 go? We need to raise awareness of every single centre where help is available for under 18s.

If parents have concerns they should bring their child to the GP.

The social media generation watches videos and photographs and seeks perfection.

If we use the power of the media, which can be beneficial, we can help people discuss what happens to them when they take steroids, to show the stories of what steroids can do to the human body and mind, and the devastating impact misuse can have on individuals, families and communities.

Listen: Real Health Podcast: Mindset and performance tips from a Riverdance star

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