A person injecting steroids into their leg
Australia Today

'Bodies Like Greek Statues': Steroids Are Everywhere

Teenage men are buying performance and image-enhancing drugs to get the body of their dreams. Regardless of the risks.

Illicit steroids and performance-enhancing drugs are typically reserved for elite athletes and competitive bodybuilders. The list of potential side effects, from hair loss to stroke, is enough for most people to steer clear. But in Australia (and across the world) young people, and particularly young men, are willing to take the risk.

Last year, 2.3% of Australian high school students – a hefty 23 in every 1000 - reported using steroids or other illicit performance and image-enhancing drugs. This figure has remained steady for the last decade.


“Across the population, we’re talking tens of thousands of secondary school students aged 12 to 17 who have used these drugs before, which I think is huge,” Beng Eu, a Melbourne-based doctor and senior fellow at the University of Melbourne, told VICE.

“For a population who probably have less access to funds, it’s not as easy to order these things. But my sense is that there are probably more people using now than there used to be.”

Dr Eu has been a GP for over 25 years and specialises in the treatment and monitoring of patients using steroids. He thinks that over the last few decades there has been “more acceptance” of steroid use in certain circles. 

“There’s a lot of pressure on people about physical images because of social media,” he said.

A box of steroids and other drugs


Despite a growing normalisation of steroids, many users may not appear like the giant bodybuilders we typically expect to be taking these drugs. Online fitness culture is flooded with influencers with perfect bodies like Greek statues, posting content to YouTube and social media about dieting and optimal ways to get a six-pack. This has had an impact on the motive of the average young steroid user, with many opting for pure “aesthetics” over the pumped up “bodybuilder” look of the past.

And buying gear has probably never been easier. 

Numerous steroid websites, found with a casual search, show how younger generations – perhaps a little overly dependent on being able to ship things straight to the door – have made getting ahold of illicit hormones easy. 


Despite information about the risks of steroids being both obvious and available, there is no way to ensure young people know the adverse impacts steroid abuse can have, especially on a body that hasn’t finished growing. 

“For younger people, there are additional risks because their hormonal systems haven’t matured yet,” Dr Eu said. 

The main risk for young men is that steroid abuse can stop their body’s ability to make testosterone naturally and require lifelong treatment, while young women could develop excessive facial hair and a deeper voice. 

“So there can be quite serious consequences and more so for the younger population,” Dr Eu said. 

For a generation of young men and teenage boys who are more worried about body image than ever before, steroids are seen as being worth the health risk if it means building a more muscular body. 

Injecting at 16

Mike* is 16-years-old and lives at home with his family in Regina, Saskatchewan. Like many of his friends, he works out regularly at a gym to stay fit and put on size. But for the past year, he has been using steroids. 

“I’ve always just liked the look of being muscular, it’s just appealing for me and it does increase mental aspects of your life,” Mike told VICE. 

Mike worried he wasn’t growing as fast as other boys his age and, when he found out his testosterone levels were below average, began looking into medical treatments. And while getting his name on a legal waitlist for treatment was one step towards his goals, it wasn’t long before he decided to take matters into his own hands.


“I got referred to a pediatrician and it kept on getting pushed back like five, six months. And then I was just like, fuck it. And I ordered my own hormones”.

Since he began using illicit steroids less than a year ago, at 15, Mike has put on over 10 kilograms. 

“I like getting bigger every day. It’s like working towards a goal,” he said. “It’s fun for me and I definitely feel a lot better. I feel more confident.”

For Mike, bodybuilding forums and bodybuilding videos on YouTube take up a lot of his time (he goes so far as to call it one of his main hobbies)   which is also how he learned about steroids and where to buy them online. 

“You can literally just search them up and learn about the go-to brands that people are using,” he says. “…The number of teens doing steroids is relatively the same. It’s just that there’s more, like, internet exposure to it.”

A man takes a photo of himself shirtless


A Cult Following

In the 2020s, any bodybuilder with an iPhone and an internet connection can try their hand at amassing a following. Sharing routines, habits, and advice for an audience of (mostly) young men, the format has also evolved into vlogs that catalogue the day-to-day of these creators: working out with other influencers, meal prepping, and organising brand deals. It’s a glamorous lifestyle. But alongside this content there has been a growing number of fitness influencers glorifying steroid use. 

Despite steroids being illegal without a prescription in Australia and the US, content about steroid use is popular. In some corners of the internet, the documentation around steroids and steroid use is borderline obsessive. Select fitness influencers have even become famous for steroid use, and entire content pillars have been built on speculating whether influencers, like the muscled, chiseled brothers The TrenTwins, take the drugs. There’s creators like Shane Stoffer (TOGI) – who posts motivational clips on TikTok of injecting, and other accounts have capitalised on the popularity of steroids online by posting “natty or not” videos that focus on investigating whether or not popular fitness personalities are using steroids. No matter where you look, steroids are everywhere. 


A study last year from the Center for Countering Digital Hate found TikTok videos promoting the use of steroids had amassed hundreds of millions of views from young Americans, with many videos downplaying the health risks. Steroids are so normalised online that the algorithms push memes and motivational videos, with captions encouraging viewers to “risk it” - usually with a clip of a shredded bodybuilder working out with the hardcore bass of phonk music playing in the background.

The online pipeline of fitness content to steroids

Davis, 22, first started going to the gym to lose some weight at 19, but when he saw the body-image standards on social media, he began down a path of steroid use.

“I was kind of fat, I didn’t really feel good about myself,” he told VICE. “So I started to take it seriously, and then all the steroids followed.”

“I just wanted to be like those influencers on there … then it kind of evolved.”

The more fitness content Davis consumed, the more he says he was steered towards videos of bodybuilders with extreme physiques and lifestyles. Which is not an uncommon content consumption pattern for young men who start working out for relatively healthy reasons. The algorithm recognises someone is interested in fitness, so it keeps recommending fitness content, showing off the next most impressive fitness influencer or bodybuilder until, eventually, Chris Hemsworth looks scrawny and the Mr Olympia becomes the aspiration.


But despite achieving his original weight loss goals and putting on more muscle than most, Davis is still unhappy with what he sees in the mirror. 

“There’s a lot of times where I have veins going through my stomach and I’d be thinking, ‘I’m kind of fat right now,” he says. “So yeah, body dysmorphia is definitely a big fucking part of it and something that I think about every day.”

A young man flexes

Poor mental health, as well as body-image issues, can be a side effect of getting immersed in bodybuilding, too. This is nothing new, but online, where reminders are constant and comparisons permanent, the constant scrutiny of the body causes some gymgoers to develop symptoms of body dysmorphia.

“Sometimes you think ‘why the fuck am I even doing this shit? What’s the point? I’m not like a professional bodybuilder. I’m not doing this for money. I wake up every day and spend my own money and stick needles in my body for what?’ But five seconds later, I go on Instagram and see the guys that motivate me, and then I’m alright and want to get back into it,” Davis said.

Despite the adverse risks associated with using steroids at a young age, neither Davis nor Mike see a doctor about their drug use. 

Mike says he is reluctant to open up about his drug use.

“You want to be honest with them so they can help you with your health and everything. But I’ve heard a lot of doctors are just dismissive once they know you’re on steroids.”

Grabbing steroids


Jake, 21, lives in Brisbane and became obsessed with bodybuilding shortly after joining the gym. He started taking performance-enhancing drugs at 18, but when it began to impact his health and family, he stopped. 

Making up the majority of Australia’s steroid-related arrests, Brisbane is considered the steroid capital. 

“You’d be surprised by how many people are actually taking steroids … lots of 17, 18, 19-year-olds,” Jake told VICE. 

Jake often compared his own gym progress to the fitness influencers and bodybuilders he watched on YouTube, which led him to chase “unrealistic expectations” of himself. Like many young boys starting to get into fitness and the bodybuilding culture, the obsession with improving the body and pushing one’s physical limits sets an impossible standard of masculinity and body image. 

“I guess at that age you’re still pretty susceptible to the ideal male physique and what a man should be and that they should be jacked.” 

“But you don’t realise you’re in that mindset of I want to risk it all and I’d say the majority of that stems from social media”.

Jake began taking SARMs and shortly after started using steroids. 

“I was thinking this will be a shortcut and I looked great, I was pretty lean. I didn’t necessarily look huge. But you could tell when I was on them.”


Despite the benefits, he had a handful of side effects, including a case of rhabdomyolysis – a potentially fatal condition where too much muscle breakdown damages the kidneys to the point where “you start literally pissing out your muscles”.

But Jake continued taking the drugs and kept his steroid use a secret from his family for over 9 months. At times, he would use the family bathroom to inject testosterone and other performance enhancers. 

That is, until his mum found his backpack full of testosterone vials, syringes and hundreds of estrogen-blocking tablets.

“It looked bad,” he said. “It looked really bad”.

Jake was given an ultimatum: stop doing steroids and see a doctor or move out. 

“I wasn’t going to come off steroids, I was going to say goodbye to my parents … but it killed me that she was as distraught as she was.”

In the wake of having his secret found out, a blood test showed he was at high risk of a stroke. 

“It was a massive wake-up call like, ‘holy shit, I’m putting myself at risk of a heart attack’, and I was thinking I’m probably gonna die younger than most because I’ve taken steroids.”

Jake said the constant cycle of trying to reach unrealistic body standards made it hard to stop using steroids because you believe you’re injecting to “feel like a man”. To Jake, the feeling of becoming stronger became an addiction. Since kicking it, he has focused on his family life and repaired his relationships. 

Still, the combination of unrealistic body standards on social media and the online popularity of steroids has cultivated a community of teens who feel it is worth taking years off their lives rather than have a regular body. 

For Mike, who started using steroids at 15, a life without steroids entirely does not seem to be in his future. 

“If, for some reason, steroids are causing issues, like in a relationship or I was running into issues with my family life, or whatever, I would stop taking higher doses and having any other steroids in there. I would just go on testosterone therapy levels for the rest of my life,” he said. 

“Do I think steroids are healthy? They’re definitely not healthy, but I don’t think drinking and smoking is either. For me, my hobby or ‘unhealthy choice’ would be steroids.”

“I’ve always been happy with how I look to be honest. But I just want to be bigger.”