It’s highly probable that the possibility of your teen using steroids has totally escaped you. However, with serious health concerns attached and irreversible side-effects, it is important to be aware of steroids and why your teen might be using them.
What Are Steroids?
Steroids are naturally produced by the body in small quantities, and are used to help fight stress and to promote normal growth and development. Anabolic steroids are synthetic male-sex hormones, the most powerful being testosterone, which promote the growth of muscle and enhance strength.
Anabolic steroids are a prescription-only medication, and can be used to treat conditions such as delayed puberty in boys, breast cancer, and osteoporosis. Taken outside of a warranted medical use, it is illegal. Steroids can be taken orally, applied as a cream, or administered intravenously.
Steroidal supplements (also referred to as steroid precursors) such as androstenedione (andro) and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) are converted by the body into anabolic steroids. Although the supplements are weaker than the steroids themselves, when taken in large doses, can prove equally harmful. Although most steroid supplements are also now prescription-only, DHEA is still readily available over the counter.
Why Do Teens Use Steroids?
Research findings published on Pediatrics, using data retrieved from a diverse range of adolescents, and including both males and females, found that 5.9% had used steroids to increase muscle.
Steroids are predominantly used to enhance activity and strength, and it is no surprise that teens feeling pressure related to sports might turn to drugs to increase muscle mass, and ultimately, performance. Although athletes are the most likely to seek out the perceived benefits of steroids, the usage is not exclusively confined to them. Research indicates that there are many determining factors involved in using steroids, which include general risk-taking teen behavior, use among adolescents with body dysmorphia (where they perceive themselves to be thin or puny), or as a way for kids to lose fat or streamline their bodies.
Teen Perception of Steroids
Often, teen perception regarding steroids can be a little skewed. Body-building is big business, and information online seems to play down any negative side-effects, instead focusing on its perceived benefits, which is naturally intriguing and appealing to teens wishing to bulk up their muscles, and improve strength. This problem is compounded by the revelation that sports superstars also use steroids to up their game. Additionally, it doesn’t help that teens have ready access to steroids, which are easily purchased online.
The Dangers of Using Steroids
Although the dangerous, and sometimes fatal, repercussions of taking steroids are becoming more widely known, the real side-effects, especially long-term, haven’t been thoroughly researched or documented. However, The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) states that steroids can cause a whole host of critical and often irreversible side-effects, such as heart disease and blood clots, and can seriously affect hormone production in males and females, causing the likes of infertility in men, and male-pattern baldness in women.
More specific to teens, steroid use can stunt growth, with the hormones fooling the body into believing it has gone through puberty; this subsequently halts the bones from growing appropriately.
Although early research highlights a correlation between steroids and negative emotions, scientists are still unsure of how they affect the brain and its functions. That said, studies do show that teens using steroids are more likely to become aggressive, have violent mood-swings, and experience serious psychological issues, such as paranoia and delusional behavior.
Steroids are also highly addictive. Many teens planning on only using them for a short period of time, or a specific purpose, can easily find themselves hooked.
Is Your Teen Using Steroids?
Although growth spurts are normal during adolescence, muscle growth takes years. If you notice a sudden increase in muscle, then steroids could be the culprit. There are also other significant physical and behavioral indicators, although many are related to normal teen development, and on their own are not necessarily a cause for concern. If you notice several of the following, it is time to investigate further:
Severe, often violent, mood swings
Obsessional thought or behavior regarding muscle building, appearance, or athletic ability
Deepened voice, particularly apparent in girls
Disruption (or ceasing) of menstrual cycle
Acne, especially sudden onset
Excessive rage or anger
Paranoid or delusional behavior
Voicing opinions about being invincible
As well as physical signs, your teen may have steroid paraphernalia, such as liquid vials, needles or pill bottles.
Without doubt, it is important to educate your child about steroids from an early age. If they are heavily involved in sports or appear to have concerns about body-image, and exhibit any of the above signs, it might be time to take action.