Teenagers today are under a lot of pressure to be the best and in the world of sports that is the fastest and strongest. We have raised them in the fast food – fast everything era so they want to obtain all of that in the shortest time. The artificial edge of steroids and performance enhancers have been around for decades but due to the internet they have never been so widely accessible.
The risks of anabolic steroids are very well documented and have been highly publicized. In short, they can not only have toxic effects on the liver and cardiovascular system, but they can arrest normal growth (despite the appearance of promoting it). Other documented adverse effects are fertility problems, behavioral and psychiatric problems, and produce possibly permanent masculine characteristics in females and breast enlargement in males.
Pressure to Perform
Why, then, would kids take them? Well, why do kids take part in many ill advised activities? Most often it is some type of perceived pressure.
The perceived pressure (including parental) to perform better at sports is greatly responsible for steroid use among youths; the feeling that they won’t be afforded the opportunity to make it to the top level if they don’t somehow rise above the pack when young. At that top level, of course, and even at collegiate level, checks are in place to detect steroid use, but that doesn’t happen very much at high school. Perhaps these teenagers feel they will fall in line when they have to, but they’ll take whatever they can to enhance their performance and visibility while it’s still possible.
Another unfortunate statistic is that young men will utilize steroids simply to look better in their desire to impress the opposite sex.
Just how widespread is this steroid use among youths? According to surveys, over 6% of students in the U.S. had taken them at least once without a doctor’s prescription, either orally or in injected form.
Communication is Key
This is no different to quizzing them on drug abuse. After all, it is drug abuse. As such, you can’t blaze in like the proverbial bull in a china shop, which will only end the conversation before it even started. Each child is different, but the following advice may help:
- Be natural and invite conversation, showing a willingness to listen not lecture.
- Ask how their sports training is progressing.
- Ask if they think there’s any way to get an edge.
- Ask about supplements, if they are using any, what they are and how they think they’ll benefit.
- Broach the subject of steroids carefully but openly. If they are on steroids, they’ll already know what you are eluding to. Talk about the choices you make in life, and how each person has to decide if they want to compete honestly or tweak the odds by illegal actions.
- Even if you don’t see signs in your own child, observe how their friends are developing physically. Have they suddenly packed on some muscle in a short space of time, or has their behavior changed? While you are not the police for all of your child’s friends, simply listen to your children to see if your child’s actions are being influenced by either peer pressure to fit in or to surpass teenage bullying tactics.
- If you notice signs of steroid or performance enhancing drug use in your child, have them tested and get professional help if the results are positive. Psychological problems can go hand in hand with physical changes.
Top Three Most Important Facts for Them to Know
Worst-case scenario, steroids can kill. And even if they don’t, there are so many awful side effects that can permanently damage their short- and long-term health, as described above.
Steroids don’t enhance skills. Muscle size alone does not produce a better athlete. That involves neurological factors such as hand-eye coordination, balance, reaction, and reflexes. Plus, the negative psychological effects of steroids may so screw up their attitude that they end up losing their natural edge.
Steroids = cheating. Do they love their sport so little that they would see it undermined by unfair competition? Cheating steals the achievement from any success they may enjoy. Striving to be the best possible athlete naturally ensures they can feel proud no matter how they fare in competition.
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For Your Health,
Dr. Joseph Gambardella, Dr. Todd Brown and Dr. Benjamin Erb