TikTok is reportedly promoting dangerous and illegal steroids and steroid-like drugs to teens and promoting unhealthy body image standards according to a new report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).
CCDH researchers looked into how steroid and steroid-adjacent content was performing on TikTok and their findings were startling. They found that over the past 3 years, videos that contained hashtags promoting the use of steroids or steroid-like drugs have over 580 million views from US users alone.
When they dug deeper into the numbers they realized that the majority of these views came from young men between the ages of 18 and 24.
Many expert psychologists, researchers, doctors, and analysts have found that social media can be incredibly detrimental to one’s health. Often we think of this harm relating to young girls who become depressed due to impossible standards for beauty and life in general but they aren’t the only ones being harmed.
Young men are also susceptible to the mental health effects of unhealthy body standards and this problem seems to be worsening since the advent of TikTok.
The CEO of the CCDH described this pandemic of mental health issues saying that “A growing – and chronically understudied – crisis is being fomented among young boys and men, wrapped in toxic ideas of masculinity, strength, and misogyny, and amplified by unaccountable algorithms.”
While this trend doesn’t seem to have reached the same level as it has with young girls it is still becoming a massive problem for our youth. It is also uniquely dangerous because steroid use is a heavy undercurrent of the overall trend of high body standards.
The Rise of Steroids: From Testosterone to Trenbolone
Young men are using steroids and other similar substances called SARMs or selective androgenic receptor modulators such as trenbolone (often called “tren”) at a terrifying rate. Any kind of steroid or SARM can be dangerous, especially when you take it without the advice and assistance of a doctor.
Testosterone, the most basic (and one of the most effective) steroids, is a naturally produced hormone that promotes muscle growth and regulates libido, bone mass, fat distribution, strength, red blood cells, and sperm production.
When someone doesn’t have the normal amount of testosterone they can face a variety of symptoms and doctors will often give them testosterone to return their levels to normal. This kind of steroid use is relatively safe but it still comes with potential risks.
Men who take TRT (testosterone replacement therapy) for too long often have a higher risk of cardiovascular problems including heart attacks and strokes that could lead to death. Other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) like SARMs can be exponentially more harmful and dangerous.
Testosterone is a Schedule III drug, making it impossible to obtain (legally) in the US without a doctor’s prescription. This is why so many young men turn to much more dangerous steroids and PEDs.
SARMs are steroid-like drugs that try to replicate the muscle and strength-related effects of testosterone. Many, such as trenbolone, are so new that the FDA hasn’t yet been able to add them to the scheduled substances list.
This means that they can be sold by gray market sellers, labeled with “Not for human consumption” to avoid the FDA’s oversight. Because they are so new, we don’t yet have a grasp on the side effects they may cause and have no clue what their long-term effects may be.
Nevertheless, we do know that many of them are extremely dangerous. They can cause horrible side effects from cardiovascular issues like heart attack, stroke, and death to infertility, severe liver disease, psychosis, and more.
The FDA published a warning about the prevalence of SARM use in young men this April but it seems to have had little effect. The agency has made some efforts to shut down SARM sellers and even arrested one man who packaged and sold the drugs as supplements, opening the way for prosecution.
However, it has little leverage against websites selling these drugs as research chemicals until they can be researched and scheduled as it’s nearly impossible to prove that they are being sold for human consumption.
TikTok Influencers Are Misrepresenting PEDs for a Buck
These extraordinarily dangerous drugs are being marketed by influencers on TikTok, targeting millions of young men. The CCDH discovered 35 TikTok influencers that had ties to vendors selling steroids or steroid-like drugs. These influencers have a total of 1.8 million followers, who end up targets for these dangerous drugs.
Likely the worst part of this trend is that many of these influencers aren’t fairly representing the potential side effects of these drugs. It’s one thing for an adult to fully understand the risks and benefits of taking a PED. It’s infinitely worse if influencers covered up the horrible side effects because they wanted to make a buck.
Some of these influencers are also intentionally marketing to teens. The CCDH report found a bodybuilder with 40k followers adding hashtags like #teenfitness and #teenbodybuilding to posts promoting the early use of steroids.
These kinds of posts are clearly against TikTok’s rules and it is simply failing to moderate this kind of content. The platform must solve this problem before any more young men are hurt by dangerous misrepresentations of these drugs.