Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Ceisteanna (1256, 1364)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

1256. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Health his plans to address the issue of steroid abuse here particularly among young males; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [32375/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

1364. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health if he will work with sporting organisations to raise awareness of steroid and performance enhancing drug abuse in sport and run a steroid and performance enhancing drug abuse awareness campaign with sporting organisations. [32664/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1256 and 1364 together.

Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone. They are medicinal products and medicines containing anabolic steroids are subject to prescription control.  As authorised prescription-only medicines, they are only available on foot of a prescription from a doctor to treat specific medical conditions. The sale and supply of anabolic steroids to the public outside of a registered pharmacy is illegal.

The inappropriate use of prescription-only medicines can cause significant harm. In addition, prescription-only medicines that are supplied illegally, including anabolic steroids, have often been shown to be falsified and there can be no guarantee as to their safety, quality or efficacy.

The HSE reports that 30 cases were treated for steroids as a main problem drug between 2010 and 2016. The vast majority were male. Most cases were aged between 25 and 34 years of age. An additional 85 cases recorded steroids as an additional problem drug. Again almost all were male and most were aged between 20 and 39 years of age.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) is the competent authority for the implementation of EU and national legislation relating to medicines in Ireland. HPRA's role includes monitoring and inspecting medicinal products on the market to ensure their safety, efficacy and legality. HPRA works closely with the Revenue Commissioners, An Garda Síochána and international enforcement agencies to prevent the unauthorised flow of illegal medicinal products, including anabolic steroids.

Growing evidence ranging from the increasing levels of illegal products detained by the HPRA each year, as well as needle exchange figures and a number of tragic deaths highlighted in the media in recent times, point to a growth in non-medical use of anabolic steroids. The HPRA states that in 2017, working in conjunction with An Garda Síochána and the Revenue Commissioners, it detained 449,411 dosage units of illegal anabolic steroids, compared to 109,006 units in 2016 and 38,049 in 2015. HPRA research also revealed a significant proportion of Irish people are unaware of the many serious side effects caused by anabolic steroid use. 

It is also within the remit of HPRA to run campaigns in this area. They launched a targeted information and education campaign for young men in late 2018 entitled ‘Zero Gains’, to highlight to users of illegally supplied products the very significant health risks associated with taking anabolic steroids. The campaign was developed in light of growing evidence of an increased use of anabolic steroids for body enhancement, as well the research that showed a significant lack of awareness of the serious health complications posed by these products.

The campaign incorporates online search, social and digital media in addition to outdoor and in-gym adverts. A new website www.zerogains.ie was launched to provide reliable and trustworthy information on the real risks of anabolic steroid use. It also provided practical advice to help anyone who is suffering from issues with use and provides details on how members of the public can report concerns about the illegal sales and supply of steroids to the authorities.

The National Drugs Strategy Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery- A health-led response to drug and alcohol use in Ireland 2017-2025 has an action to establish a working group to examine the evidence in relation to current and emerging trends of drug use, including the use of image and performance enhancing drugs (such as anabolic steroids). This working group will be established by the HSE in conjunction with other relevant stakeholders, including sports groups, during the lifespan of the strategy.