We are just on the other side of the peak for baseball season. The Home Run Derby in New York this past week spawned lots of conversation about steroid use and how it has affected the accomplishments and reputations of ball players over the past several years. Baseball, of course, is not the only professional sport to be tarnished with steroid abuses – football, cycling, weightlifting, boxing – just about every major sport has had its share of negative press over the illegal use of steroids by competitors.
The bigger problem is that professional athletes are not the only ones who are abusing these dangerous substances. Adult women and men are taking them (illegally) to get a ‘ripped’ appearance. And even more upsetting, steroid use has trickled down to young teens and preteens. Steroids are not benign substances and taking them can lead to serious health risks. This is especially true for young teenagers who decide to take them.
How Bad Is Teen Steroid Use?
So just how much of a problem is teen steroid use? A University of Minnesota study used surveys to question 2,700 young teens (close to age 14) about use of steroids. The survey revealed that nearly 6 percent of boys and a surprising 4.6 percent of girls confessed to using steroids. These are 14 year olds. Another five to ten percent of them said that they used creatine or similar non-steroidal protein supplements in the form of powder or shakes.
The use of steroids appeared to be more prominent among young Asians. Asian teenagers were three to four times more apt to have been using steroids during the year prior than any other group. Of course, the fact that middle school children are taking illegal substances in order to heighten their musculature reveals a pervasive body image problem in this country as well as a problematic emphasis on athletic performance.
Dangers Of Teens Using Steroids
Use of steroids by young people is a health concern for a variety of reasons. To begin with, kids who take steroids are more likely to also be taking some other drug. This is called stacking. But even if young teens only use steroids, the risks are serious.
Teenagers are in the process of rapid development. Not only their bodies, but their brains are undergoing transformative changes. Anabolic steroids can damage the adolescent brain during this vulnerable period in the same way as other illegal drugs. Damaged brain cells can lead to a condition called hyper-excitability making the person unpredictably agitated or aggressive.
Steroids do not only harm the brain, however. They can also cause harm to other organs such as the liver, kidneys and heart. Steroids can harm teens by halting bone growth. Taking steroids as a teenager to beef up muscles can prevent a person from ever achieving their full height in adulthood. Steroids have also been shown to interrupt normal hormone development. The risks are many for teens who abuse steroids.
Schools may not be teaching teens about the dangers of steroid use in health class and coaches may not be teaching them about the dangers at practice. So what can parents do?
Parents should be alert to the symptoms of anabolic steroid use.
Symptoms Of Anabolic Steroid Use
- Growth in muscle mass
- More body hair
- Stretch marks on the skin over joints
- A surge in weight
- Greasy hair or losing hair
- Oily skin
- Deep red or purplish acne
- Notable changes in mood, especially aggressiveness
- Bad breath
- Preoccupation with diet and exercise
- Avoids eating
If a parent sees these symptoms they can use a urine test to determine if their child may be using steroids. Tests can detect the presence of steroids anywhere from one week to one month after use. The dangerous effects of steroid use are too great to ignore.