It should be no surprise to the bodybuilding community that the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PED) is on the rise. After all, we see it every day in gyms across America – not only among elite athletes but even among average gym users who are looking for quick results. That’s what’s so scary.

Athletes who use PEDs make up only a small fraction of the 3 MILLION PED users according to a Scientific Statement released yesterday by the Endocrine Society. In fact, the pervasiveness of PED use now exceeds Type 1 Diabetes and HIV infection.

“There is a widespread misperception that PED use is safe or that adverse effects are manageable,” according to Shalender Bhasin, MD, Director, Research Program in Men’s Health, Aging, and Metabolism, at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and chair of the task force that developed the statement. “The truth is, PED use has been linked to increased risk of death and a wide variety of cardiovascular, psychiatric, metabolic, renal, and musculoskeletal disorders.”

There have been increasing numbers of young bodybuilders dying of heart attacks but the bodybuilding community remains in constant denial with the excuse that “there is no proof that steroids were the cause.” Sorry, but that just doesn’t fly. To be sure, there is no absolute connection between steroids and heart attacks but, then, what is the absolute cause of ANY heart attack? Can anyone say definitively what causes anyone to die of a heart attack? The cause might be stress, high cholesterol, bad genes, poor circulation,high blood pressure, or a combination of all or more of these things. The common denominator among all of these athletes, however, was their PED use.

Non-athletes do not automatically gravitate to using PEDs. They are largely influenced by the athletes who are their role models – many of whom they see in the gym or in the media. While they usually have no expectations that they can perform in the athletic arena like their “artificial” champions, they want to at least look like them in terms of increased muscle tone, firmness, and lean muscle mass. According to the Endocrine Society statement, this often leads to anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) addiction. In fact, according to the study, almost one third of AAS users will develop AAS dependence and about 1 million men have already experienced AAS dependence at some time. And this isn’t a problem?

For an abbreviated version of the statement, refer to the Stone Hearth Newsletter. To read the entire statement, refer to the Endocrine Review.

This is serious stuff.