Analytical Study on Anabolic Steroids in the UK

The following article was written by ChemClarity

Okay, so this is a study which was carried out by a new company called ChemClarity who are offering HPLC testing services to give you an opportunity to make sure that your vial of gear actually contains what it says on the tin. The study gives some interesting results and I think there is a particular lab you will probably think about avoiding after reading this.

Who is ChemClarity?

ChemClarity.com is a Life Sciences laboratory, created to educate and raise awareness of the risks associated with steroids and image enhancing drug use. They work in partnership with SureScreen Life Sciences, one of the UK’s best known drug testing laboratories, meaning their clients can be confident of reliable and accurate results.

What test method do they use to test a sample?

They use High Pressure Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (HPLC-MS), a technique in analytical chemistry used to separate, identify, and quantify chemical components in a mixture. They use this technique to:

  • Detect active compounds in a sample
  • Measure the dosage of the compounds found

The steroids they currently test for are as follows:

  • Oxandrolone
  • Stanozolol
  • Oxymetholone
  • Methandrostenolone
  • Testosterone Propionate
  • Testosterone Phenylpropionate
  • Testosterone Enanthate
  • Testosterone Cypionate
  • Testosterone Isocaproate
  • Testosterone Decanoate
  • Nandrolone Decanoate
  • Trenbolone Enanthate
  • Trenbolone Acetate
  • Boldenone Undecylenate
  • Drostanolone Propionate
  • Drostanolone Enanthate

Abstract

The use of anabolic steroids continues to rise among the general population in the United Kingdom, raising concerns over public health. This study used High Pressure Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (HPLC-MS) to analyse the active steroidal compounds in 21 commonly used anabolic steroids that were sourced from sellers online. The objective of the study was to assess the legitimacy, quality and relative safety of the aforementioned substances. Many of the substances were found to be either, or a combination of – fake, mislabeled or incorrectly dosed – and fell short of the standards adhered to by legitimate pharmaceutical companies, despite being carefully packaged, branded and marketed as if they were. The prevailing viewpoint is that the illicit manufacture of anabolic steroids is a criminal process, unbound by industry law and regulation. The unregulated underground nature of the market creates a great deal of uncertainty for users, and with it, raises serious issues of product quality and safety.

Introduction

This study assesses the legitimacy, quality and relative safety of anabolic steroids sourced from sellers online in the United Kingdom. It is a harm reduction initiative by ChemClarity.com, a Life Sciences laboratory providing a publicly accessible substance testing service, enabling users of anabolic steroids to verify a substance before use. The link between performance-enhancing substances and sport has long been established. Over the past decade, use of these substances – in particular anabolic steroids – has increased significantly among the general population in England and Wales (Home Office, 2016). In recent years we’ve witnessed a rapid expansion of substances used, including anabolic steroids, growth hormones, peptide hormones and other prescription-only medicines (Centre for Public Health, 2016). The drugs in circulation are predominantly illicitly manufactured, often in underground laboratories, referred to by the community as ‘UGLs’. This creates a great deal of uncertainty for users and poses a high level of risk to public health, in relation to adverse side effects resulting from the unregulated production of substances. Due to the growing use of anabolic steroids in England and Wales, this study explores the legitimacy, quality and relative safety of substances.

Materials

Commonly used illicit anabolic steroids were privately procured by ChemClarity.com between the months of August – September 2016. The steroids were sourced online from a variety of sellers through social media sites such as Facebook and through the popular messaging application WhatsApp. A range of branded steroids were sourced to establish a realistic cross-section of test samples. The underground laboratories and substances selected for this study included:

  • Baltic Pharmaceuticals
  • Prostasia
  • Occulus Research
  • Rohm Labs
  • Bio-Med Pharmaceuticals
  • Sphinx
  • D4net
  • Dimensions
  • Cambridge Research
  • Maxtechpharma
  • Alpha Pharma

Anabolic Steroid Test Samples:

  • Oxandrolone
  • Stanozolol
  • Oxymetholone
  • Methandrostenolone
  • Testosterone Propionate
  • Testosterone Enanthate
  • Testosterone Cypionate
  • Nandrolone Decanoate
  • Trenbolone Enanthate
  • Trenbolone Acetate
  • Boldenone Undecylenate
  • Drostanolone Propionate
  • Drostanolone Enanthate

Method

Test samples were tested using High Pressure Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (HPLC-MS), a technique in analytical chemistry used to separate, identify, and quantify chemical components in a mixture. This technique was primarily used to:

  • Detect active compounds in a test sample
  • Measure the dosage of the compounds found

To ensure accurate comparative testing, pharmaceutical grade anabolic steroids were procured privately by ChemClarity.com to calibrate laboratory equipment and to use as a control substance in which all other samples were measured against.

Test reports identified steroidal compounds by name and gave a quantitative dosage measurement of mg/1ml for injectable test samples and mg/tablet for oral test samples.

Where applicable, test results also identified compounds commonly associated with the preparation of anabolic steroids by name only. These compounds included:

  • Benzyl Alcohol
  • Benzyl Benzoate
  • Ethyl Oleate
  • Grape Seed Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Flaxseed Oil
  • Ground Nut Oil
  • Rape Seed Oil

The test method was capable of detecting the presence of multiple compounds. However, the test results of samples found containing steroidal compounds other to those listed above could not be identified. Unknown compounds were individually identified on test reports as, ‘Unknown Compound’

Data

capture

Discussion

A significant finding was that despite being marketed and branded as high-quality drugs, none of the test samples resembled pharmaceutical grade drugs. A number of the underground laboratories could be found online. The websites had the look and feel of a professional site, however, they commonly lacked content that is synonymous with a legitimate company. For example, there is little information about the company, its location, products, services, customers and most importantly, its accreditation. The main feature on a number of the websites was a checking system, allowing users to check product serial numbers to verify the “legitimacy” of drugs. The packaging used by each underground laboratory differed significantly. Some underground laboratories opted to package oral products in a plastic screw cap container, with a piece of cotton wool inserted to stop the tablets from moving. Others used professional foil blister packaging that was stamped with the brand and the dosage of the drug. Contrary to perception, no correlation was found between the quality of packaging and test results. Adversely, test samples that used the most basic packaging tested more favorably. Packaging belonging to one of the more highly revered laboratories included a bilingual informational leaflet. The leaflet had the appearance of a leaflet typically found inside legitimate over-the-counter and prescription drugs but closer inspection revealed grammatical and spelling errors and listed active ingredients that aren’t typically used in the preparation of legitimate pharmaceutical grade drugs. In addition, the packaging and product information leaflet were printed with a European Conformity marking, known as a CE Marking. The CE marking is required for many products but is not required for chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics or foods, which fall under the scope of other directives and European and international legislation. Based on the limited evidence of this study alone, the conclusion is that all of the test samples sourced were illicitly manufactured and that brand strategy was employed to create the perception of legitimacy in order to elevate brand value in a competitive marketplace.

The most concerning discovery was the quality and general inconsistency of the anabolic steroids surveyed. 66.6% of the steroids surveyed were incorrectly dosed. A number of samples were sourced from the same underground laboratory and were inconsistently dosed, something uncharacteristic of a legitimate pharmaceutical company. Samples 001, 010, 012, 015 and 017 were manufactured by an underground laboratory which is believed by many to be a legitimate pharmaceutical company. 4 out of 5 of the test samples were found to be incorrectly dosed by as much as 35.6%. In addition, numerous unknown compounds were identified as being present in samples and could not be identified by this test, raising further concern over safety.

4.7% of the steroids surveyed were found to be fake. Sample 021, was sourced via an online distributor and was manufactured by Prostasia, a well-known and popular underground laboratory. This test sample did not contain the advertised active steroidal compound Drostanolone Enanthate. Instead, it contained the steroidal compounds: Trenbolone Enanthate, Trenbolone Acetate, and Testosterone Propionate. Whether intentional or not, this misappropriation of compounds presents a significant risk to health and is likely to cause serious, unexpected negative side effects – especially for women – that are counterintuitive to the effects of Drostanolone and difficult to diagnose.

All of the injectable test samples were found to contain amounts of Benzyl Alcohol and Benzyl Benzoate, two compounds commonly used in the preparation of anabolic steroids as sterilising and solubilising agents. Although the test method used in this study was not calibrated to quantitatively measure both compounds, it was clear from test results that the amounts present in each test sample diered – some significantly.

A number of unknown compounds were identified in the injectable test samples. The test method used was unable to identify compounds that fell outside of the scope of this study. It is possible that the unknown compounds were additional steroidal compounds or biological contaminants introduced during the manufacturing process.

Known as a “carrier oil”, specific oils are commonly used in the preparation of injectable anabolic steroids to aid solubilisation of the hormone compound. The test method used in this study was not calibrated to quantitatively measure the dosage, however, multiple carrier oils were detected and the amounts present varied between test samples. Consumer grade oil products are likely to contain high levels of particulate matter. It is, therefore, conceivable that use of consumer grade oils could be the cause of, or contribute to, the high number of unknown compounds found in the injectable test samples. Furthermore, contaminants could be probiotic, providing the nutrients required for bacteria growth. Should this be the case, the use of low-grade oils could lead to sterility issues, especially in the test samples found to contain lower levels of Benzyl Alcohol.

A study on anabolic steroid use amongst gym users in the United Kingdom, published in 2014, reported that users of anabolic steroids expressed their belief that anabolic steroids could be used relatively safely and that the harms associated with anabolic steroids could be managed as part of a healthy lifestyle (Kimergård, 2014). Users might feel knowledgeable enough and able to control or eliminate the harms associated with anabolic steroid use, however, the findings of this study reinforce that belief to be incorrect. Findings have shown many things, one of the most concerning being the unreliability of illicitly manufactured anabolic steroids. Without the ability to identify and quantitatively measure active compounds in anabolic steroids, users have no reliable way to verify a substance before use, which means even the most experienced and knowledgeable users are not able to use anabolic steroids as safely as they claim. In the case of test sample 021, the compounds found are likely to cause unexpected and unwanted negative side eects that would require immediate management or treatment. However, due to the product being mislabelled it would be very dicult to diagnose side eects and treat them eectively.

The conclusion of the study is that public use of anabolic steroids in the United Kingdom is far from being a safe practice. It is an unregulated marketplace that employs deceptive strategies and produces illegitimate, low quality and inconsistent drugs. More needs to be done to educate the general public on the harms associated with anabolic steroid use. Further research is required to identify the unknown compounds identified in this study and to quantitatively measure the dosages and relative safety of other compounds commonly used in the preparation of anabolic steroids.

References

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