The term “steroid” is often – incorrectly – used to describe any performance-enhancing drug, but it’s really about synthetic hormones. For example, diabetics inject insulin which is a form of steroid, and doctors will use cortisol to reduce inflammation after an accident or injury – that’s another steroid.

But the most popular form of steroids is anabolic steroids, which are a synthetic variant of the naturally occurring male sex hormone testosterone. They’re banned in Australia, where they’re classified as Schedule 2 drugs and possession can lead to a year in prison. But the drugs are readily available in Thailand, where pharmacies stock them and some gyms even sell them. One shop, Tops Pharmacy on Pattaya’s 2nd Road, was raided by police in 2010 but is still well known among amateur bodybuilders seeking to bulk up. It stocks a visual catalogue of the different types of steroids and also talks customers through their choices if they’re not sure what to buy.

Steroids have several side effects including hair growth (no, not the kind that helps bald men) and decreased sperm count which can lead to sterility. Excessive use also causes acne, high cholesterol and testicular atrophy. But for many Australians, who can’t afford the hefty prices for steroids back home, the seedy beachside town of Pattaya keeps drawing them back for what they call steroid vacations.

An Australian bodybuilder who wished to remain anonymous told Spectrum that he frequently journeys to Pattaya from his home country for two months of “cycling” _ taking combinations of steroids every 48 to 72 hours to build up muscle. He said it was cheaper to go to Thailand than buy them in Australia and risk a large fine or jail time for smuggling them through border checks. Steroids Thailand

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