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Why are so many young women on steroids?

The rise in anabolic steroid use among young women is alarming, driven by social media influencers, unrealistic beauty standards, and easy online access. Leading expert and researcher Victoria Felkar reveals why this trend shows no sign of slowing down and highlights the severe physical and mental health risks many women are taking in the pursuit of the “perfect” body
Victoria Felkar
Victoria Felkar

Victoria Felkar is an interdisciplinary researcher and instructor working across the fields of kinesiology, medicine, critical studies and the humanities. Here specific research focus explores women’s health and female hormone manipulation within sport and medicine. Follow her on Instagram. Visit victoriafelkar.com.

Women on steroids: girls are driven to drugs by social media

In recent years, there’s been a concerning rise in the number of young women turning to anabolic steroids. To understand the reasons behind this trend, Unfiltered sat down with Victoria Felkar, a researcher and expert in the field of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and women’s health and training.

In a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation Felkar (watch the full video interview here) explains why more young women are attracted to anabolic steroid use and the potential harm they can do.

The surge in PED usage among women can be attributed to several compelling factors. Influencers, fitness models, and bodybuilders wield significant influence through social media, often extolling the benefits of steroids while glossing over the associated risks. Felkar points to the pressure to achieve unrealistic body standards, fuelled by celebrities like the Kardashians, and the pervasive use of in-app filters that distort body shape that drive women towards rapid physique changes through chemical means. Finally, the growing ease of acquiring steroids, as well as SARMs and peptides, online has made these substances more accessible than ever, removing a considerable obstacle to their use.

Victoria Felkar: Women don’t realise the risks of using steroids

As Felkar explains in our exclusive conversation, many of the young women using anabolic steroids are oblivious to their risks, including the potentially irreversible effects on their hormonal health and fertility, which is why she is leading the charge to better educate those who need it most about the common and lesser-known side-effects of steroids (see below for more).

What are PEDs?

Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) encompass a wide range of substances used to improve physical performance, endurance, and aesthetics. These include anabolic steroids, human growth hormone (HGH), and other compounds that boost muscle growth and recovery. Anabolic steroids, a subset of PEDs, are synthetic derivatives of testosterone. They are primarily used to increase muscle mass and strength. Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators, or SARMs, are another type of physique- and performance-enhancing compound.

What steroids are women taking?

Young women are most commonly using anabolic steroids such as Anavar (Oxandrolone), Winstrol (Stanozolol), and Clenbuterol (despite Clenbuterol technically being a sympathomimetic amine, not a steroid). These substances are often chosen for their ability to promote lean muscle growth, fat loss, and enhanced athletic performance with supposedly fewer androgenic (masculinising) effects compared to other steroids.

Known for its mild nature, Anavar is popular among women because it has a lower risk of causing significant masculinising side effects. It helps in muscle retention and fat loss, making it a favourite for those seeking an aesthetic physique.

This steroid is favoured for its ability to increase muscle definition and strength without excessive weight gain. However, it carries a higher risk of virilisation effects than Anavar.

Although not a steroid, Clenbuterol is used for its potent fat-burning properties. It’s often stacked with other PEDs to enhance muscle definition and reduce body fat.

How do steroids affect women’s physical appearance?

The appeal of these substances lies in their ability to transform physical appearance quickly. Users can experience increased muscle mass, reduced body fat, and improved muscle definition. However, these benefits come at a cost. Women may develop masculinising effects such as a deeper voice, increased body hair, and changes in facial structure. Other potential side effects include severe acne, hair loss, and menstrual irregularities.

What are the risks of using steroids on women’s physical health?

The use of anabolic steroids is associated with numerous health risks. Cardiovascular issues are prominent, as these substances can elevate blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. Liver damage is another serious concern, especially with oral steroids like Anavar and Winstrol, which can be hepatotoxic. The disruption of the endocrine system can lead to long-term hormonal imbalances, which may be irreversible even after cessation.

According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, women who use anabolic steroids are at risk of reproductive health issues, including infertility and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Bone density may also be adversely affected, leading to an increased risk of fractures and osteoporosis.

What are the risks of using steroids on women’s mental health?

The psychological effects of anabolic steroid use are equally concerning. Users may experience mood swings, aggression, and even depression. Long-term use can result in dependence and withdrawal symptoms, creating a cycle of addiction. Studies have shown that women may be more susceptible to these mental health effects, exacerbating conditions including anxiety and eating disorders.

Listen to our exclusive interview with Victoria Felkar on women’s training, steroids and more!

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