The illegal procurement of APEDs has become easier and more accessible, thanks to social networking sites, mainly Facebook and Youtube.
The concerning findings are a part of the recent study by Digital Citizens Alliance and Taylor Hooton Foundation, the two American non-profit organizations concerned with educating people about internet safety issues and the perils of using appearance and performance-enhancing drugs (APEDs), respectively.
The study was conducted by starting with simple searches for illegal steroid sellers on platforms such as Google, Facebook, and Youtube. The study highlights that each platform offers easy connectivity with dealers selling Steroid illegally. A multitude of pages and groups were found on Facebook with information on how and where to get APEDs from. Some commercial Facebook pages even had a “shop now” button redirecting users to sites where drug purchases could be made. Videos on how to procure drugs along with working WhatsApp numbers of providers were found on Youtube.
Once the investigators had made this initial search, there was a surge in targeted ads for steroid sellers on their feed.
To further prove the easy accessibility of these drugs, the investigators ordered a shipment of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) and Deca Durabolin, both of which are only supposed to be sold with a prescription. They received the package without any hassle and sent them unopened to a lab for testing. This revealed that the HGH in the package was fake. Thus, buying APEDs through these platforms is highly unsafe for users that lack awareness.
Trends in APED abuse
In the recent decade, there has been a rise in APED use and a change in the demographic its consumers belong to.
APEDs are steroids that build muscle, enhance strength, and accelerate growth when used. Research suggests that they are addictive substances, despite not causing “highs”. Additionally, they are strong substances that result in adverse long term effects such as heart attacks, tumors, vital organ failure, etc., and have the potential to cause irreversible physical damage. Thus, they are drugs that are only legally available with a prescription and appropriate monitoring.
Use of these drugs was previously associated with athletes for the purpose of enhancing their athletic performance and strength. However, with an increase in the widespread marketing of ideal body images through social media, a shift in the purpose of APED use has been seen.
The DCA conducted a survey in July 2019 on about 2400 American citizens to gauge current statistics on APED use and the reasons behind it. From this sample, it was estimated that about 10% of the population has used APEDs. It was also seen that the most common reason for teens to take the drug was to enhance their appearance to fit current ideals.
This change is a cause for alarm for it suggests that the use of APEDs has become more widespread due to availability and a piece of incomplete knowledge about its effects, with little to no awareness about the harm these drugs cause.
Facebook And YouTube Hiding Behind Guidelines
Social media marketing has rapidly become a ubiquitous phenomenon. The basic principle it works on is to tailor content to fit the habits and preferences of every individual user. To achieve this, a highly intelligent algorithm has been set in place that functions on user data. However, most social media platforms take several measures in the form of community guidelines to monitor the appropriateness of the content.
Despite such guidelines, it seems that the liberal availability of APEDs still goes unnoticed.
In response to this, a Facebook spokesperson said that the site has clear guidelines stating that illegal trade of drugs is unacceptable and any content in violation to this guideline is removed when it comes to their attention.
The lines are more blurred when it comes to Youtube as the community guidelines allow for the depiction of drug use in content falling under the documentary category. However, it seems that there are no clear guidelines in place so far when it comes to the use of growth enhancement steroids.