While following some TikTok trends might be entertaining, many can have dangerous repercussions. Now, a recent report says that many kids and young adults are now following a risky steroid trend.
A recent report by the United Kingdom-based non-profit Center for Countering Digital Hate says influencers on TikTok have ties to online sellers of illegal and unregulated substances, such as selective androgen receptor modulators or SARMs.
According to the survey, the influencers often use hashtags like #TeenBodybuilding to promote their material to an audience of teens and young adults.
According to the study, users frequently draw viewers in with before-and-after photos of body makeovers or the physiques of well-known bodybuilders who have allegedly utilized steroids.
However, a TikTok representative who talked with Insider cautioned that hashtag-related views do not distinguish between positive and harmful material; for instance, that number may also include videos outlining the dangers of steroids or recovery from their usage.
The researchers noticed that the text of several TikTok videos downplayed the adverse health effects of drug use while simultaneously promoting it.
The researchers are asking TikTok to closely monitor the material on its site and politicians to take strict measures on the sales of the drugs in light of the report's results.
What kind of steroids are teens using?
SARMs are a prominent class of medication that are synthetic pharmaceuticals promoted for fat reduction and muscle gain.
Since SARMs may be purchased and sold on unregulated websites that subtly promote them to customers, they are frequently referred to as "legal steroids" online.
Frequently, the medications are marketed as "research chemicals" to evade legal action. The goods are sold using terms like "muscle building," "fat burning," and "testosterone boosting," even though they are labeled "not for human consumption."
SARMs have significant health hazards, even though they are not the same as illicit anabolic steroids that are prescribed as performance-enhancing medications off-label.
The FDA has issued a warning regarding an elevated risk of psychosis, liver failure, heart attacks, and sexual dysfunction. The World Anti-Doping Agency has prohibited SARMs from use in sports since 2008.
The fact that the chemicals are unregulated and frequently contaminated, mislabeled, or mixed with other illegal compounds that the producer doesn't disclose raises further concerns about the substances.
Researchers discovered that businesses may reach 540 times more viewers through influencer collaborations than through their accounts.
Per the research, influencers on the network frequently struck profitable agreements with vendor websites, receiving up to 30% of commissions on transactions made via their connections.
Imran Ahmed, the CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, urged lawmakers to fix loopholes that allow the internet sale of drugs and encouraged the tech industry to impose stricter laws cracking down on drug marketing.
"It is TikTok's job to keep the platform safe, and enforce its community rules, but our research has found that the platform turns a blind eye to the promotion of dangerous and potentially illegal drugs. At the same time, we've found that boys and young men are being bombarded with toxic content that seeks to promote and profit from body dysmorphia."- Ahmed
He continues by saying that the self-worth and health of young men might be jeopardized for TikTok, retailers, and influencers to profit from this content.
Although the advocacy group's analysis mainly focused on TikTok, Insider discovered evidence of comparable commercials and promotional content on other social media sites.
The representative stated that anything that promotes SARMs, shows or instructs users on how to use them or shows young people using any substance is presently against TikTok's community rules and would be deleted from the app upon discovery.
- Center for Countering Digital Hate | CCDH. TikTok permits videos promoting sale of potentially deadly and illegal bodybuilding drugs to teens – seen up to 587 million total times in the US.
- USADA. Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) – What Athletes Need to Know.
- JAMA Network Open. Chemical Composition and Labeling of Substances Marketed as Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators and Sold via the Internet.