THE number of people caught selling steroids in the Lothians has soared, with police snaring nearly 50 dealers peddling the performance-enhancing substances in the last three years.
The new figures today sparked concern from drug charities, which warned that the use of steroids had risen steeply in recent years.
Dealers are often sourcing the Class C drugs over the internet before selling them to users, including at gyms in the Capital.
Anabolic steroids are also becoming increasingly popular amongst members of drug gangs in the Lothians, while prison inmates are also abusing the body-building substances, which can be taken as tablets or injected.
Police chiefs today pledged to continue to crack down on steroid dealers, with 46 people charged with dealing the substances, or possession with the intent to supply, since January 2009.
Among the steroids seized last year was nandrolone, the substance Linford Christie was caught taking in 1999.
Other seizures included methandrostenolone and oxymetholone, both used by body-builders to produce muscle growth, and testosterone.
Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, the drug policy and information charity, said: “For several years we have seen evidence of a growing steroid problem, particularly among young men who want to achieve a muscular physique. People who use anabolic steroids for non-medical purposes are at risk of a number of extremely unpleasant side effects.
“Prolonged use of anabolic steroids can damage the liver and increase blood pressure. Men often find that their sex drive is reduced and they may also develop heavier breast tissue – a condition called gynecomastia but more commonly known as ‘man boobs’.”
NHS Lothian has put measures in place to deal with patients abusing steroids.
Dr Dermot Gorman, consultant in public health, said: “NHS Lothian offers a range of services. These include psychological therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and one-to-one support.
“We also provide advice and clean injecting equipment.”
A police spokesman said: “Lothian and Borders Police are committed to removing drugs from our communities and bringing those involved in the drugs trade to justice, The increase in those arrested for the possession and supply of steroids is testament to the force’s pro-active approach in tackling the distribution.”
In May, an Italian restaurant boss was jailed for eight months for smuggling steroids into a prison for body-building inmates after trying to persuade guards they were sweets.
Vito Alongi, 52, who runs the Jolly restaurant in Leith’s Elm Row, was teaching inmates at Addiewell Prison to cook when he was caught with tablets worth £75 during a search.
In the same month, a former public schoolboy caught picking up a delivery of diazepam imported from Pakistan claimed at court he thought the package contained his usual batch of steroids.
Keen body-builder Michael Coats, 28, who was a pupil at George Watson’s College, was using a friend’s post box in Morningside to take delivery of the drugs.