HUNDREDS of women and men are being admitted to hospitals in Scotland every year after having Botox injections to make them look younger and taking body-building stimulants.
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The sharp rise since the US-imported Botox phenomenon became popular among both sexes in the last decade has become such a problem that one MSP described it as a "brand new challenge" for under-pressure health workers.
Newly released NHS figures show about 1000 people have been affected over the past three years by botched cosmetic work or the after-effects of anabolic steroids used to rapidly tone muscle after exercise and pulling weights in the gym.
There were 411 hospital admissions in 2012-13 for people who used such vanity drugs and treatments, compared with 297 in the previous 12 months and 347 in 2010-11.
Tory health spokesman Jackson Carlaw, whose party obtained the figures, said: "The increase in use of performance and image-enhancing drugs presents a brand new challenge for our NHS.
"It's incredible to think more than 1000 people over the past three years have been forced to seek hospital attention because of this.
"That trend appears to be increasing, and it's crucial the Scottish Government is ready to face this task. We cannot afford to be blind-sided by this and, of course, there is a good chance the type of person using these drugs may not be typical drug users. That in itself poses new challenges, and I hope ministers explain what they intend to do to stop this rise and help those who find themselves misusing such substances."
The information comes from nine of Scotland's 14 health boards. Ayrshire and Arran had the highest number of people affected, with 358 patients treated in three years.
It compares with 331 in Fife, 280 in Forth Valley, 56 in Borders, 28 in the Western Isles, 25 in Highland, fewer than 10 in Dumfries and Galloway, and fewer than five in Grampian. There were no cases in Shetland.
Mr Carlaw suggested the figures show there is a lack of public information about the possible risks from Botox and certain steroids.
No figures were available for the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, Lanarkshire, Lothian, Orkney and Tayside. "With so many health boards claiming they could not provide the information, it is reasonable to think this problem is even worse than these figures suggest," Mr Carlaw said.
"It is an extremely concerning snapshot and one that must be taken very seriously."
Earlier this year, the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) called for a ban on Botox being administered by non-medical professionals. At present, clients can undergo the treatment in high-street beauty salons for about £250 a session, and the past decade has seen the rise of so-called "Botox parties" where women - and men - can have the injections en masse at home.
An estimated 4000 Scots have the facial injections each month in an effort to smooth out lines and wrinkles. The treatment uses a purified form of the botulinum toxin, a poison produced by a bacterium. It works by temporarily paralysing muscles to prevent creases forming in the skin and has been popularised by its use by celebrities such as Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue and even Simon Cowell, but mocked for creating a "frozen" appearance after repeated use.
However, medics have warned tougher regulation of the industry is needed.
RCS president Professor Norman Williams said: "While the colleges and professional organisations involved in cosmetic practice are neither regulators nor legislators, the profession has a responsibility to provide standards to which we would expect our members to work.
"We have serious concerns that not all those who offer cosmetic procedures are adequately qualified, or that patients are getting accurate information prior to treatment."