With a staggering 1.5 million teenagers — both male and female — admitting to using steroids, according to one foundation, concern is growing about an easy way for them to score the drug.
On YouTube, videos advertise and include links to sites where anyone can buy steroids. Many of the sellers are from overseas and claim they do not require a prescription, which would be illegal in the US.
“This is international drug-dealing,” said Tom Galvin of the Digital Citizens Alliance. “It’s coming from places we have no control over, and it’s going directly to our kids.”
The Digital Citizens Alliance, an online watchdog, saw an explosion of these sites this year and went shopping.
One package arrived from Thailand, but the product said it was made in Pakistan. Another package came from Slovakia but the product’s packaging read China. Orders from one other website never arrived.
Testing by the organization showed that while one vial contained steroids, their potency was unclear. Another vial supposed to have human growth hormone, did not. The lab could not determine just what was in the container, other than the fact that it was a protein.
“There have been instances where they [vials] have been found to have lead or arsenic,” Galvin said.
Much of the raw product comes from China, and the steroids are not always made in sterile conditions.
YouTube, which makes money from ads for all kinds of things that accompany the videos, told ABC News that it had systems in place to prevent advertisements from appearing on objectionable content and that it removed “millions of videos each year that violate our policies.”
But critics such as Don Hooton, whose son Taylor Hooton, 17, committed suicide in 2003 after using steroids and becoming depressed, said YouTube should be more proactive.
“If the kids can find these sites, then [parent company] Google and YouTube can find these sites and shut them down,” said Hooten who lives in Texas.
After ABC News asked questions, YouTube said that it would block its ads connected to “buy steroid” searches.
“We take user safety seriously and have guidelines that prohibit any content encouraging dangerous, illegal activities. This includes content promoting the sale of drugs. YouTube’s review teams respond to videos flagged for our attention around the clock, removing millions of videos each year that violate our policies. We also have stringent advertising guidelines, and work to prevent ads appearing against any video, channel or page once we determine that the content is not appropriate for our advertising partners,” YouTube said in a statement. “YouTube has developed proactive systems that work to prevent ads from running against objectionable content. This includes content classified by our systems as related to pharmaceuticals. Any video content containing terms associated with prescription drugs is also blocked from receiving advertising.”