Teens Seeking a Fit Look or a Competitive Edge Turn to Steroids

A recent study by the University of Missouri and Columbia University about teenager’s use of steroids brings much needed public awareness to the health issue and reveals some interesting role reversals among boys and girls.

Out of 2,793 middle and high school students questioned, the study showed more and more girls are using steroids, protein shakes and over the counter products trying to bulk up. About 4% of the girls in the study said they use steroids, compared to almost 6% of the boys. Contrast that to the traditional aspirations of teenage girls to be ultra-thin and there seems to be a shift in what adolescent girls perceive as attractive. Although attaining a “fit” look rather than an emaciated one seems healthier as fewer girls are starving themselves or binge eating, it’s really no better because now they are turning to other unhealthy methods of achieving their desired look.

Likewise, an alarming percentage of boys revealed they wrestle with body-image insecurities, which has typically been associated with girls. Seeing muscle bound males in movies, TV shows, and commercials are fueling the dissatisfaction with boys, many who are not athletes participating in weight training and rigorous exercise but who are seeking the same athletic look.

As the study suggests, there is a substantial population of teenagers who from early adolescence are at risk of using unhealthy muscle-enhancing behaviors to achieve the appearance of being “fit”.  And, it’s not only about appearing fit for many. It’s about enhancing “performance” in sports by using anabolic steroids to gain a competitive edge to teammates and help their teams win at any cost.

Anabolic steriods are artificially produced hormones that are similar to androgens, the male-type sex hormones in the body. The risks associated with the use of anabolic steroids include anger, aggression, depression, paranoia, delusion, sleep problems, nausea, skin problems, high blood pressure, greater risk of muscle and tendon injury, liver damage, urinary problems, shortening of final adult height, and increased risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.  Also, specifically for boys, they risk testicular shrinkage, breast development, impotence and sterility.  And, for girls, increase facial hair, menstrual cycle changes, and development of masculine traits like a deeper voice and smaller breasts, are common.  Some might argue steroids are more dangerous to teens than alcohol or marijuana.

With two kids in high school, I suspect certain kids of using steroids, although I haven’t considered any that were girls.   Most of my son’s friends, including my own son, are downing protein shakes daily but the muscle they gain going the “healthy” route can’t compete with the ones building muscle at an accelerated rate using anabolic steroids.  While becoming stronger and faster, these boys are experiencing acne breakouts and mood changes, and unknowingly could be stunting their own growth among other things.   If it’s this obvious to me that steroids are being used, why aren’t coaches noticing, or are they turning a blind eye?

It’s one of the serious health issues facing adolescents.  With the release of this study, many mainstream media outlets have picked up the story, bringing much needed awareness to the dangers and number of teens using.  Under-reported, much like sexual-harassment in the workplace, this threat begs parents, coaches, and the media’s attention, as well as the kids who may not know the risks.

If you’ve gotten this far in my post, maybe you’d be willing to take part in bringing awareness.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. Add comments below with your viewpoints and insights. Then, talk openly with your kids about the importance of being healthy and of not going to extremes or using unhealthy fads to look a certain way or to gain a competitive edge.


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