A dangerous method many teenagers nowadays use to improve their appearance and to enhance their athletic performance is by building muscle mass through the consumption of Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs). Anabolic steroids in sport, which come under APEDs, can boost a user’s confidence and strength but only at the cost of their health, as these drugs can cause severe, long-lasting and sometimes, irreversible damage.
What Are Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic steroids are synthetic or human-made drugs that mimic the actions of the male sex hormone, testosterone. The proper term is anabolic-androgenic steroids, where anabolic refers to muscle building, as these drugs promote the growth of cells, particularly in muscles. Androgenic refers to maintaining or increasing male sexual characteristics.
What Are Anabolic Steroids Risks and Side Effects in Teens?
Anabolic Steroids have severe and adverse effects in teens, both mental and physical. Mental include paranoia, extreme and unreasonable behavior, jealousy, extreme irritability and aggression (“road rage”), delusions (false beliefs or ideas), and impaired judgment.
Physically, anabolic steroids affect most organ systems, and in many cases, the damage is not reversible. Steroid use in can cause fertility problems: impotence, high blood pressure and cholesterol, heart and liver abnormalities, and increase the risk of stroke and heart attacks, even in young people.
Steroid side effects in men may include:
- shrinkage of the testes or the development of breast tissue
- decreased sperm count
- increased risk for prostate cancer
Girls may experience:
- menstrual irregularities
- development of masculine qualities such as facial and body hair
- decreased breast size
- male-pattern baldness
- enlarged clitoris
- deepened voice
Both may develop acne.
Side effects of steroids, more particular to teens include stunted growth, as high hormone levels from steroids signal to the body to stop bone growth too early. It may also cause stunted height if teens use common steroids before their growth spurt. Some steroid effects and physical changes like shrinking sex organs in males can cause mood disorders.
How Do Teens Get Anabolic Steroids?
According to figures released by the CDC and the National Institute on Drug Abuse in 2004, one in 29 high school seniors and half a million kids in total had tried anabolic steroids without medical guidance. Sadly enough, 40% of high school students said that anabolic steroids were “easy” to get, according to the National Household Survey on drug abuse.
One may think that why such steroids are even accessible to teens if the risk of using anabolic steroids and its side effects are so adverse. The issue with the misuse of steroids drug is that some teens actually get prescribed steroids from a licensed practitioner for stimulating puberty in boys who are “late bloomers” or to stimulate growth among teens who are failing to grow. So not all of them are dealing with unscrupulous clinics or street dealers on the black market and therefore it is challenging to reprimand general use. However, the issue is when such drugs are taken without medical advice and supervision, like vendors selling anabolic steroids online without a prescription. Or when teens share such drugs with their friends who do not have any hormonal issue to tackle and simply start taking steroids for building muscles or having a “six-pack.” Furthermore, some dietary supplements and powders advertised for bodybuilding may illegally include steroids or steroid-like substances and not include that information on the ingredients list.
Use Anabolic Steroids for Medical Use Only
Anabolic steroids should be taken for medical use only, and therefore, parents must play a massive role in the prevention of misuse of such drugs by explaining to their teens how do steroids affect the body and why are steroids bad for you. They should tell them that anabolic steroids are taken for severe diseases not for “looking good.” Teens should know that health care providers prescribe steroids to treat hormonal issues, such as delayed puberty. It is also administered to treat diseases that cause muscle loss, such as cancer and AIDS.
The teen years are a difficult time to navigate through for both boys and girls, as they deal with issues such as self-confidence and body image while going through puberty. Parents should start by informing their teens about the risks of using anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. They should explain to them that there are many ways to increase muscle mass and athletic performance, including a healthy combination of exercise and diet and how there is no need to resort to such extreme and dangerous measures.