Teenage Female Prostitutes Using “Steroids” to Bulk Up

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Teenage female prostitutes in Bangladesh are using “steroids” to bulk up and gain weight according to a report by Reuters. The alarmist headline about a “dark steroid secret” suggests that there is an epidemic of sex workers who are “abusing steroids” as appearance-enhancing drugs. Of course, anabolic steroids are the drugs that come to mind in the context of steroid abuse and bulking up. It isn’t until the seventh paragraph that readers learn that the steroids are not anabolic steroids but corticosteroids.

The cortico-steroid in question is sold over-the-counter under the trade name Oradexon at pharmacies in Bangladesh. It can be purchased without a prescription for as little as 15 taka ($0.18 USD). The generic name for Oradexon is dexamethasone which is a common anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant drug that is used to treat a variety of conditions. Dexamethasone is over 26 times more powerful than the naturally-occurring cortisol steroid hormone.

Ninety percent of sex workers in the 15 legal brothels in Bangledesh use the cortico-steroid. This adds up to approximately 900 young prostitutes who are using Oradexon on a regular basis either by force or by choice.

“Sardarnis” or madames often force sex workers to use the drug initially but the drugs are frequently continued voluntarily under the misconception that cortico-steroids make their users “strong and healthy”.

Ironically, Bangladesh sex workers are taking cortico-steroids for many of the same reasons that bodybuilders take anabolic steroids. The prostitutes use Oradexon to improve their physical appearance, to gain weight, to enhance “curves” and to increase appetite.

Oradexon is said to give “chukris” a “healthy” look that is in demand among customers.

“In this brothel, customers always look for healthy girls. I take Oradexon,” says one chukri. “I need customers so I can pay my bills and loans. If I don’t get any customers one day, I cannot eat in the next day. I wish to save some money for my son.”

In reality, the side effects of cortico-steroids are often more severe than those associated with anabolic steroids. They can cause serious side effects such as immunosuppression, steroid-induced osteoporosis, insulin resistance (“steroid diabetes”), increase appetite, weight gain and increased visceral fat storage.

Activists in Bangladesh are working to bring attention to this unique form of “steroid abuse”.


Biraj, A. (March 19, 2012). Bangladesh’s “teenage” brothels hold dark steroid secret. Retrieved from