As experts warn that steroid users are increasingly turning to the internet to get their drugs – including teenagers seeking physical transformations -- the News 4 I-Team found it was simple to purchase anabolic steroids online, and captured one of the buys on undercover video.
In the "Sporting Goods" category on Backpage.com's "For Sale" section, anyone can find a link to the underground and illegal business offering steroids, often called "juice" or "gear."
The drug is legally prescribed to build muscle in cancer and AIDS patients, and now it's popular not only among athletes but also young people.
And according to a study published in the journal "Pediatrics," 5 percent of teens, or 1 in 20, has used steroids for muscle growth. The largest group? Not athletes. According to findings by Boston's Fenway Institute, gay teens are 5.8 times more likely to use the drug.
"In today's society many young boys believe muscles make you more appealing. a lot of kids are putting their bodies in danger," said psychologist Harris Stratyner, an expert in addictive behavior.
The I-Team met one dealer on a street corner in Queens after exchanging a few emails with a seller who posted his supply on Backpage.com. Undercover video shows the dealer, who goes by "Jimmy," handing over a plastic bag.
It contained 10 syringes and what appeared to be an authentic bottle of the popular steroid GP Sustanon 270. He explained that one shot, once a week for 10 weeks would pack on muscle.
But Stratyner says the effects are far worse, especially for a teenager's developing body.
"Over time these drugs cause tremendous, tremendous harm: strokes, cancer of the liver, pancreatitis," he said.
There's no single source for how these drugs enter the black market. Just last week a Long Island man was arrested for having 1,000 bottles of steroids, which sources say came from overseas. "Jimmy" said he got his from medicine cabinets.
"Most people I get it from already have a prescription," he said.
Sal Lifrieri, former director of New York City's Security and Intelligence Operations, says steroids are not as addictive as Oxycodone and other prescriptions but are just as dangerous and just as difficult to eradicate.
"The law is just not able to keep up with technology," said Lifrieri.
"It's one of the drugs we're seeing more and more of today, especially online," said Lifrieri.
The I-Team reached out to Backpage and Craigslist, where a total of seven ads were found in five days. No one returned requests for comment.