Matthew Dear Story of Fatal Steroid Overdose Revisited

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“The Daily Mirror”, a popular daily British tabloid, has used the Jonny “I Want to Be a Bodybuilder” Spelman steroid scandal as a convenient opportunity to revisit the “steroid death” of teenager Matthew Dear. The Mirror has chosen to use the image of a dead Dear in a precautionary tale of what could happen to a teenager like Jonny Spelman who wants to be the “biggest guy there ever was.”

Matthew Dear reportedly died from an overdose of anabolic steroids on April 20, 2009. Dear was in the middle of a steroid cycle involving 50 pills of an undisclosed anabolic steroid obtained from a local dealer. The parents of Dear blamed steroids for the blindness, brain swelling and organ failure that led to the death of their youngest son. They solicited their son’s story along with a picture of Dear on his death bed to the Mirror a couple of weeks after his death. They subsequently created the Matthew Dear Foundation to teach others about the dangers of steroids.

The attending physician for Matthew Dear admitted that he never witnessed any such steroid-related side effects. This should not have been a surprise. In over 50 years of medical research into anabolic steroids, acute steroid intoxication leading to brain swelling has probably never been listed as a documented side effect.

An autopsy into the cause of death was inconclusive. The results of a toxicology screen were not reported.

The Basildon Crown Court didn’t hold the steroid dealers who provided the drugs to Matthew Dear liable for the death of the teenager. They were only arrested and charged with selling steroids. Alex Moss-Austin and Gary Penny both pleaded guilty to selling 50 tablets of steroids to Dear. They were sentenced to 160 hours of community service and a fine of £300 on March 1, 2010.

Clearly, the story of Matthew Dear can be used as a teaching opportunity for the risks of steroid abuse among teenagers. Unfortunately, an organization based on the premise that steroids can cause acute and fatal intoxication may not have much credibility among its target audience.

A teenage bodybuilder like Spelman, who may want to use anabolic steroids to become a professional bodybuilder, will unlikely be deterred by steroid scare tactics that are not based on medically-substantiated facts.

Real steroid education is needed rather than anti-steroid propaganda. A harm reduction approach that honestly discusses the risks and benefits of performance-enhancing drugs and informs users on the best methods to avoid harm can be significantly more effective.

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Atik, N. & Ricketts, G. (June 26, 2012). ‘Steroids killed our son’: Teenager tried to bulk up his muscles.. within weeks he was dead. Retrieved from http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/teenager-used-steroids-to-bulk-up-939952