Steroids: Maybe Your Kid

Most recent surveys find that 3%-4% of high school students self-report use anabolic (muscle building) steroids at some time. Given underreporting flaws, that figure is likely a low-ball estimate. These prescription drugs are easy to obtain on the Internet and are all based on chemical modifications of testosterone, the potent male hormone. And females are included in this tally. When it comes to kids, the acronym for human performance-enhancement (HPE) is often expanded to HPEA, with the A referring to appearance. Remember how many times you looked into the mirror during your adolescent years? Were we tall, slim, and buff enough?

Likely, the percentage of steroid use increases in college and professional sports. There are, at least, three reasons for this. The first is the due to concentration effect of steroid users making college and pro-teams. The second comes from competitive pressures of staying on those teams, and the third is abetted by the cash rewards of being the biggest and fastest. When those attributes are combined with innate skill and timing, an athlete becomes almost unbeatable, and icon for your sports inclined child.

While adults can take steroids for varying periods with a low risk/benefit ratio, the odds are decidedly reversed for adolescents whose hormonal balance during puberty and rapid growth is exquisite balanced. An off-balance hormonal system during this critical time can have lifelong effects.

Teenage Steroid Use: Dangers

Numerous detailed medical reports of the dangerous side effects of anabolic steroid use in teenagers exist. My prior articles on adolescents and testosterone-mimicking drugs focused on the incidence and warning signs. As a physician, parent, and former doping control official I boil them down to their medical and psychosocial essence.

Serious health endangering problems with early onset (within a few years) include stunted growth due to premature maturation of bone growth, liver toxicity, testicular shrinkage, and sexual dysfunction. Appearance modifying side effects include enlargement of male breast tissue, baldness, increase body hair and deepening of the voice in both sexes. Clitoral enlargement and menstrual problems are common.

Severe problems with behavioral control (‘roid rage), aggressive and self-destructive behavior can be associated with suicide.

There are a host of possible late onset problems affecting the heart, circulatory, and sex organs. I classify them as premature aging and linking them to youthful steroid use may be difficult.

The rate of onset and degree of danger poised by all of the above is dependent in the dose taken and the duration of its use. Don’t forget steroids can become addictive. If you think your child is using steroids make certain they understand the consequences listed above. The body build boost they seek is no free lunch and is only an Internet click away from your front door.

Author's Bio: 

Harvey has been an award winning TV commentator, researcher, author, mayor of Del Mar, and is an avid cyclist. He served as a Doping Control Officer in Utah's 2002 Winter Olympics and lives in Park City and San Diego.