Teenage boys through to men in their thirties and forties are all in the at-risk group, said Jim McVeigh, a reader in substance-abuse epidemiology at Liverpool John Moores University.
Acne on the back, accelerated male-pattern baldness and female breast tissue are all symptoms of anabolic steroid abuse, said Mr McVeigh.
‘The excess testosterone in the body converts into an oestrogen-like substance and leads to growth of female breast tissue,’ he explained.
High BP, depression, aggression, liver disease and even muscle weakness are also side-effects of anabolic drug abuse.
Liver function tests and lipid profiling can detect changes characteristic of steroid abuse, said Mr McVeigh.
He said that several hundred thousand men in the UK are abusing anabolic steroids to achieve standards of physical perfection set by the media.
Steroid abuse is a strong part of the drug market in Blackpool, Liverpool, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Nottingham, Manchester and Newcastle, the charity DrugScope has found.
Dr Clare Gerada, spokeswoman on drugs for the RCGP, said GPs with patients abusing anabolic steroids should consider contacting a local addiction centre for support.
‘A GP’s role is early identification, and providing advice and support for the patient in terms of what the patient wants.’
They could offer help by controlling side effects such as hypertension, she added.
‘You can stop anabolic steroids without too much damage. but you should reduce the dose gradually,’ said Dr Gerada.