The new legislation on anabolic steroids is being introduced in response to warnings about the increasing popularity and easy online availability of anabolic steroids.
Cumbria GP Dr Euan Lawson, who has an interest in the risks associated with drug misuse, welcomed the announcement. But he said such measures needed to be supported by strong harm-reduction messages.
The government's announcement of new legislation comes in response to recommendations in a report issued last year by the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).
The ACMD said legislation needed to be introduced to prevent importation of anabolic steroids. It also said the National Treatment Agency (NTA) needed to recognise infection risks faced by users of anabolic steroids. But it advised against changing the legal status of anabolic steroids.
Dr Lawson welcomed the government’s plans.
'It is encouraging that the government have accepted almost all the ACMD's recommendations and haven't chosen to criminalise and marginalise anabolic steroid users directly,’ he said. ‘There is a real need for reliable, credible and consistent health information for steroid users.'
He added: ‘There is a problem with counterfeit and low quality steroids entering the system but a strong and effective harm reduction message will ultimately be more important than any legislation.’
‘It is particularly important that the NTA act on the recommendations to afford greater recognition to the issue of bloodborne viruses in anabolic steroid users and don't kick the can down the road.’
Around 50,000 people are estimated to have used anabolic steroids in the past year. The ACMD believes use is increasing among those interested in body building and image enhancement.
Rising popularity and the ease of availability online mean that problems with substandard or counterfeit products are likely to increase for the foreseeable future,the ACMD said.