Talking to Teens About Steroid Use

Recognize the signs, know what to do

man injecting steroid needle into arm

Most teens are smart enough to avoid anabolic steroids — synthetic hormones that add muscle and prevent muscle breakdown. But some student athletes may be tempted to use them – in pill form or injectable form using a needle – to gain strength and bulk up, without understanding the dangers.

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How common is steroid use among young people? Cleveland Clinic Sports Health experts point to a National Institute of Drug Abuse study suggesting that 1.2 percent of 8th graders, 1.4 percent of 10th graders, and 1.8 percent of 12th graders have tried some form of steroids.

3 tips for talking to your teen

If you suspect your teen is using steroids, experts suggest doing the following 3 things:

  • Choose a safe environment to talk. Bring up the side effects and suggest healthier ways to improve performance with an athletic trainer or sports dietitian.
  • Be prepared for denials. When confronted, your student athlete may deny it. He or she may even resent you for suggesting it.
  • Present facts. Be patient and understanding, but firm in presenting the facts.

What if you suspect steroid use but are not sure? Watch your teen for sudden muscle mass or weight gain (without intensive training) and either withdrawn or hyperactive behavior.

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Understand the many dangers of steroid use

Communicate the dangers. It’s important that teens understand that steroids use can:

  • Affect hormone production
    This means that steroid use affects a young athlete’s developing brain.
  • Increase blood pressure, fluid retention, weight gain and acne
    Once a teen quits using steroids, these problems should stop.
  • Stunt growth
    Continued steroid use can cause permanent problems with stunted growth as well as other serious physical and emotional problems.
  • Weaken immunity
    As a result, steroid users may have more frequent illness.
  • Increase risks for serious health conditions
    Chances of heart disease, stroke and death increase with steroid use.
  • Cause hyperactive behavior and mood swings
    These emotional swings can even lead to violence.
  • Create addiction and cause depression
    In addition to creating dependency, steroids can also cause life-threatening depression.
  • Affect young men with specific problems
    Decreased sperm count, breast development, shrinking of the testicles, baldness and increased prostate cancer risk are possible.
  • Affect young women with specific problems
    Halting of periods, loss of breast tissue, increased facial hair and permanently deeper voice are possible.

If you have a teen and are concerned about steroid use, being observant and having the facts will help. Often, teens aren’t informed enough about the dangers.

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