Bodybuilders in the UK are increasingly suffering altered perceptions of body image, similar in psychopathology to bulimia nervosa, and abusing prescription medication as well as steroids, according to an editorial published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

"Gym goers are increasingly resorting to steroids and prescription drugs to counteract their altered body images," said Professor Bruce Davies of the University of Glamorgan.

"Sufferers of negative or heightened body image issues will go to extremes to meet their desired goals and doctors need to be more aware of the efforts 'bigorexics' will go to achieve their goals."

Last year Drs Julien Baker, Michael Graham and Prof Bruce Davies surveyed male and female gym attendees and found significant increases in the use of diuretics (10%), thyroxine (10%), insulin (14%), tamoxifen (22%), growth hormone (24%) and ephedrine (44%).

"Steroids remain the most abused drug with 89 per cent of respondents saying they obtained the drugs from aberrant sources. However, 95 per cent of respondents admitted to taking a combination of prescription drugs," said Professor Davies.

"We're also seeing an increase in the number of women abusing steroids with seven per cent admitting to taking steroids.

"Our results corroborate research undertaken in the United States, that is, an increasing number of non-athletes are resorting to a combination of drugs with the sole intention of improving their physical appearance," he said.

The authors call for greater awareness of the psychological reasons of prescription drug and steroid abuse including counselling and appropriate medical treatment.

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