Record numbers of north-east residents are injecting themselves with drugs in a quest for the perfect body.
New statistics reveal more than 800 people in the region have registered as image and performance-enhancing drug (IPED) users in the last year – and one support worker believes the hunt for “Instagram perfection” and a “Love Island body” is partly to blame.
He has warned that the ever-increasing number of IPED users are putting themselves at risk of overdose, infection or abscesses – but has said supported usage brings an element of safety.
Under an NHS scheme, IPED users can register with their GP or pharmacy so they can access needle kits.
The Evening Express obtained the data from NHS Grampian under freedom of information laws and discovered 807 people registered as IPED users in the 12 months up to the end of March, compared with 617 in the previous 12-month period.
“NHS Grampian has been compiling the figures since 2012 and the latest figure is the highest recorded. The issue is taken so seriously by the Aberdeen Alcohol and Drug Action charity it has a dedicated support worker to help IPED users with psychological issues.
Finlay Colville, a substance use worker, said: “These figures are interesting and give an insight into the number of people who are injecting themselves with drugs.
“We also know people inject tanning agents such as melanotan, as well as peptides and other substances. The motivations are mixed.
“However, it is clear from interacting with people that shows such as Love Island and, going further back, Geordie Shore influence some people. Some feel a pressure to look a certain way because of what we see on social media and TV.
“We have seen a rise in the number of fitness models on Instagram and people are influenced by it. They are looking for that perfect Instagram image of themselves or a Love Island body. Others are influenced by peer pressure.
“Some might be for competitive reasons – body builders and people who enter powerlifting contests.”
He added: “It’s also easier to access now with the internet, instead of buying it from someone at the gym.
“The service we offer that many of these users engage with is the needle exchange.
“We see more than 200 to 300 engagements in a year and the people who are coming to use this service come to look for advice and equipment.”
The figures also show the number of women accessing the service almost doubled in the last 12 months, from 24 to 42.
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Mr Colville said: “That does indicate more women are using IPEDs, though it is not necessarily our experience during engagements. Ideally, we would like people not to take them at all.
“When people buy them, they cannot vouch for the quality of the substances and the concentration could be high, or mixed with something else. It might be counterfeit.
“Some people may suffer from abscesses. There could be liver damage and coming off these substances can also have psychological side effects, your hormone levels are changing with these drugs and you could feel an impact on your mood.
“However, if people are going to do it, it is important services like ours know so we can try to minimise their usage and keep people safe.”
For information on Aberdeen’s IPED service visit: bit.ly/ABZIPED or phone 01224 594700