Dangerous Muscle-Building Drugs on Sale in the UK

An investigation has found that dangerous muscle-building drugs, known as SARMs, are widely available in the UK.

Dangerous Muscle-Building Drugs on Sale in the UK f

"we would like to see better control over them"

An investigation has found that dangerous muscle-building drugs are being sold illegally in shops around the UK.

The substances, known as SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators), are widely available in bodybuilding supplement shops as well as online.

Doctors warn that side effects include erectile dysfunction, mood swings, liver problems and eyesight issues.

Laura Wilson, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said:

“SARMs do pose a danger to people who are taking them.

“We would like to see the laws around them tightened, we would like to see better control over them and an acknowledgment that they are not being used for ‘research purposes’ when they’re being purchased.”

SARMs are similar to steroids in that they both work by binding to your androgen receptors, which then trigger changes to your DNA and increase your muscle cells’ growth potential.

But with steroids, enzymes in the prostate and scalp cause the extra testosterone to metabolise into DHT.

Whereas SARMs are said to be ’tissue selective’ and do not trigger this reaction. SARMS are also typically taken in pill form, rather than as an injection like steroids.

SARMs were first discovered by a scientist working on treatments for prostate cancer.

He identified the first SARM, andarine, which was not much use as a cancer treatment but had remarkable muscle-building properties.

The drug is popular among gym-goers who want to build muscle and lose fat, typically costing £40 for 60 pills – to be consumed once or twice daily.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) says they are categorised as an “unauthorised novel food” that “should not be consumed”.

It adds that “placing them on the market in the UK is a criminal offence”.

Despite this, the muscle-building drugs are being sold openly over the counter in shops.

During a BBC investigation, undercover reporters visited 10 shops in the UK and asked for advice on products that would make them “bigger and leaner” in conjunction with gym training.

While some initially recommended protein shakes, all the retailers went on to advise on the use of SARMs to improve physique quickly.

One seller in Yorkshire said he did not recommend taking SARMs, he sold them regardless.

Another in the West Midlands said:

“They’re not even strictly for human consumption, but they are effective.”

When the same seller was asked whether there were side effects, he replied:

“Not really.”

He mentioned the possibility of lowered testosterone but added: “You should be absolutely fine.”

The fact that SARMs are unregulated means consumers can never be sure what they are buying.

Hull-based Rhys Bryant was 20 when he bought pills online that were marketed as SARMs. In fact, he received a different performance-enhancing drug.

He said:

“I just kind of went in blind, not knowing what I was taking.”

He said the website where he bought the drugs listed “only positives”, and carried no warnings about possible side effects.

But within two weeks of taking the drugs, Rhys began to suffer from disturbed sleep, mood swings, erectile dysfunction and completely lost his sex drive.

After a month, he stopped taking the pills. However, the side effects persisted long afterwards.

He added: “I was worried [my health] wouldn’t go back to normal.”

Personal trainer Sam admitted he had not realised the drugs were illegal because they are so widely used in the fitness community.

He said: “I kind of just assumed that, well, if everyone else is doing it, surely it must be safe.”

David Pickering, of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, said it will “work with the FSA to identify any of these supplements that are found on sale and remove them from the market to protect consumers”.

Dhiren is a journalism graduate with a passion for gaming, watching films and sports. He also enjoys cooking from time to time. His motto is to “Live life one day at a time.”

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