Steroid Vacations: All the rage
It hardly needs to be said, but we will anyway: Steroid Vacations are a really dangerous idea.
Never heard of them? Thats not surprising.
The Fairfax Media recently exposed the practice where an increasing number of amateur bodybuilders are travelling from Australia to South East Asian countries, particularly Thailand, for holidays that include taking anabolic steroids and growth hormones.
Mostly young men, they use the performance- and image-enhancing drugs to fast-track a ripped body.
In Australia, these drugs are only available via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme through tightly-monitored prescriptions. They are used to treat male hypogonadism (androgen deficiency in males with certain pituitary or testicular disorders), to induce puberty, and, occasionally, to promote growth in short children.
But, pharmacies in Bangkok and Pattaya sell steroids over the counter for a tenth of the price they fetch on Australias black market, the investigation found.
Travellers are gambling with their health
Dr Ed Bajrovic, the medical director of Travelvax Australia, believes many of the young people taking steroid vacations are actually well aware of the risks.
They seem to be prepared to gamble on their health to achieve the body image of their dreams, he said.
Its not much different from the extremes of dieting, diuretic and laxative abuse that young woman and girls subject themselves to get the super-slim model image.
Not only are there serious risks from chronic anabolic steroid use, but even one off or occasional use can be dangerous.
Counterfeit medicines are rife in Southeast Asia. Fake anti-malarial medication and antibiotics have become increasingly common in recent years and, through this newsletter, Travelvax Australia has warned travellers of the risks these pose many times.
For young Australians taking steroid vacations, there is no way of knowing exactly what theyre getting.
Travel insurance could be invalid
Fake drugs increase the risk of an acute adverse reaction, Dr Bajrovic said.
And, who do you turn to when you are in a country with medical services that are not what you would expect back home?
Travellers should also remember that travel insurance may not cover the costs of treating an adverse reaction especially if the drug is not approved for that use in Australia.
Dr Bajrovic said the dangers of unsupervised steroid or hormone use can be both psychological and physical.
So-called roid rage could easily lead a young traveller to commit an assault and get themselves into costly trouble with authorities, he said.
There is only so much the Australian government can do to help you if you end up in court or prison in a foreign country.
Its often left to the family to try to get the young person out of trouble. With lawyers and fines, this can be extremely expensive.
Sudden death or long-term risks
So, what are the dangers of unsupervised steroid use?
The long-term consequences from chronic anabolic steroid use are well documented. They include liver and kidney disease, high blood pressure, and increased serum lipids (fats).
All of these can damage the heart and lead to sudden death from cardiac arrest and heart attack in otherwise healthy young men. A leading Australian amateur bodybuilding celebrity, Aziz 'Zyzz Shavershian, died of an undiagnosed heart condition in a Bangkok sauna while on holiday last year.
Then there are the visible changes: the growth of male breast tissue, acne, and blackheads. Testes can undergo atrophy (shrinkage), and a reduced sperm count can lead to low fertility.
When young men and teenagers who have not finished growing use steroids there is a risk the epiphyses (growth plates) of the long bones may fuse prematurely, resulting in reduced bone growth.
Finally, there are the chronic psychological effects, such as long-term mood disorders and psychosis, Dr Bajrovic said.
Is it really worth the risk?
Next time you travel overseas, ask our travel health advisors for advice on what may be recommended for your trip and see one of Travelvax Australia's 32 clinics nationally. Call our travel health advisory line on 1300 360 164 for more details.
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Travelvax Australia compiles this weekly bulletin of global travel health alerts, risk assessments and advice for the information of Austrlaian travellers and the travel industry. Please contact our travel health advisory service on 1300 360 164 for broad destination-specific advice and vaccination recommendations. Recommended vaccines, travel medicine, trip-specific advice and accessories are available during a medical consultation with a travel health professional at any of Travelvax Australians 32 clinics. Visit our website or call 1300 360 164.
Source = Travelvax