The frequency and brutality of violent, drunken brawls on Sydney streets has led some to speculate that steroid usage might be fuelling this aggression.
The state government announced on Tuesday that it will increase the maximum penalty for supply and possession of illegal steroids to 25 years.
John Terilli, owner of Broadway Gym and former Mr Universe, is a body builder who used steroids supplied by doctors as part of his training regime, when they were legal in Australia.
Mr Terilli said the recent violence on the city streets should be attributed to individuals and not the drugs or alcohol they may have taken.
“The people who get aggressive, that’s like the footballer who goes home, has two or three drinks and beats up his wife.” Mr Terilli said.
“That person clearly doesn’t have the constitution. It’s the person not the drug.”
Mr Terilli said the dangers surrounding steroid use are caused by their illegality, and when doctors were able to prescribe them conditions were much safer.
“The government stopped doctors from prescribing them. The criminals are selling this stuff and they’re probably making it and it’s probably not even what it’s supposed to be.
“When they were legal, I’d go to a doctor and she’d prescribe it. The doctor would advise you and say, these medicines have side effects.”
Mr Terilli said steroids are no longer an issue solely for gyms, as a pattern of recreational use has developed on the streets.
“I don’t think it’s part of the gym culture anymore. They’re so widespread. The person on the street [has] more or less has turned them into a recreational drug,” Mr Terilli said.
Dr Jonathan Brett from Drug Health Services at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital said studies found the average steroid user to be a man aged between 30 to 40 years of age, with a good income.
Dr Brett said that steroids can lead to aggressive behaviour, particularly when mixed with alcohol.
“Studies have shown that up to about 50 per cent of those who use anabolic steroids suffer from some sort of psychological consequence and about a quarter experience what they call roid rage,” Dr Brett said.
Roid rage is a term given to acts of aggression or hostility, often violent, thought to result from high steroid use partly as a result of greater testosterone levels in the body.
“Alcohol relieves your inhibitions essentially and so when you add that to alcohol you probably are going to see more violent behaviour,” Dr Brett said.
He told City Hub that Canterbury was a particularly hot spot for steroid usage in the inner west.
“Marrickville and Redfern were not that high. Canterbury, it seemed that almost half the people who came in to pick up fresh needles, the last drug they injected was a steroid,” he said.
Jenny Iversen, project contact for the Australian Needle and Syringe Program Survey at UNSW, said steroid use has increased and it has become the most popular drug to inject among new injectors.
“They are the most popular among people who first injected less than three years ago,” she said. “Certainly there is an upward trend in use.”
Gerard Byrne, Clinical Director for Recovery at the Salvation Army, said they had seen an increase in people using steroids in conjunction with other drugs.
“It’s certainly something that’s on the rise,” he said. “The people who come in, who report steroid use, are also coming to us for a range of other drug use.”
A spokesperson from the Marrickville Local Area Command of NSW Police said that in recent years there has been no detection of steroids and no reports of steroid-related violence in the local area.