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Steroid videos on TikTok are exploding, sometimes targeting teens

A new report by a social media watchdog group details how steroid content is exploding in some TikTok communities, promoting dangerous and illegal substances and unattainable body image ideals for boys and young men.

In the last three years, U.S. users have watched over 580 million videos tagged with hashtags promoting steroid-like drug use, mostly by 18-to-24-year-old men. No under-18 views data is available.

“Young women and girls aren’t the only group of young people exposed to potentially damaging and dangerous content online,” CCDH CEO Imran Ahmed said.

“A growing, chronically understudied crisis is being fomented among young boys and men, wrapped in toxic masculinity, strength, and misogyny, and amplified by unaccountable algorithms.”


Since these substances pose health risks, the CCDH classifies them as “steroid-like drugs” rather than “performance-enhancing drugs”. Anabolic-androgenic steroids, peptides, and SARMs are examined in the report.

The FDA warned teens and young adults about steroid-like drug use in April, citing social media influencers. The FDA warned of a surge in adverse event reports linking SARMs to heart attack, infertility, and psychosis.

The FDA wrote that social media videos promote SARMs as a quick or easy way to improve appearance, muscle mass, or athletic performance for teens and young adults. ‘SARMs are potentially dangerous.’

Anabolic-androgenic steroids need a prescription in the U.S., but peptides and SARMs as dietary supplements are illegal. The US Anti-Doping Agency states that “there are no [FDA]-approved SARMs currently available for prescription.” All SARMs are experimental.” Even though they are dangerous, the substances are sold as “research chemicals” that aren’t approved by regulatory agencies and aren’t for human consumption, encouraging buyers to ingest them.

FDA may not fall for that loophole. The agency has sent warning letters to SARM sellers that exploit that loophole, leading to criminal charges.

The report states that vendors selling these drugs increasingly use TikTok influencers for affiliate marketing, even though they don’t target underage users. The CCDH found 35 TikTok influencers linked to illegal steroid-like drug websites. That group of accounts has 1.8 million TikTok users and uses them to promote affiliate links and discount codes for high commissions.

“The accounts all belong to users who post videos displaying their physiques or muscle-gaining techniques,” the report says. “Many openly documented their own experiences with SLDs or uploaded educational videos highlighting supposed benefits, often ignoring or downplaying health risks.”

TikTok users posted gym and workout videos encouraging steroid use. Some targeted under-18s with captions like “teenagers lied about their age just to fight in WW2 but you are too scared to take S4RMs [SARMs]” and “Just tell your parents they’re vitamins.” Researchers also found videos from under-18 users promoting steroid-like drug use in bodybuilding.

One bodybuilding influencer in the report explicitly targets teens and his 40,700 followers with #teenbodybuilding and #teenfitness. The account delves into dangerous pseudo-science, encouraging teens to use steroids early to grow taller and genitalia.

“Ultimately, this is a story of TikTok’s stark failure to govern their platform and enforce their rules,” Ahmed said. “…TikTok must start enforcing its own rules prohibiting the promotion and sale of potentially dangerous drugs for profit and be more transparent about how many children and teens are routinely exposed to this content through its algorithms.

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