Anabolic steroids are dangerous and illegal athletic performance enhancing drugs. While there have been professional athletes caught using these or similar drugs, the potential problems in adolescents and teens go well beyond the legal risks.
As many as four million American teens are using performance enhancing drugs. Anabolic steroids can permanently alter growth and can permanently damage the liver or damage other organ function. Yet teens see their sports heroes using these drugs and getting results. It’s a powerful message: “Win at all costs! Bigger is better. Even if taking drugs breaks the law, professional and Olympic athletes are willing to take these drugs, so why shouldn’t I?” Young athletes have too much to lose by risking their health.
What Are Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male sex hormone testosterone. The steroids reportedly enhance the construction of new proteins and increase muscle size and strength. This is something that already takes place in the body naturally, but the steroids simulate or increase this normal biologic activity. Steroids can either be taken orally or by an injection. Anabolic steroids in and of themselves are not effective. When used in conjunction with strength training they may cause gains in size and strength, but along with that can produce dangerous side effects.
Side Effects of Anabolic Steroids
Performance enhancing drugs have the ability to make athletes bigger and stronger, but users face potentially deadly health risks. Many of the side effects of performance enhancing drugs continue even after stopping the drugs. Users also are likelier to engage in risky behavior, such as taking other illegal drugs. Some users tell themselves they’ll only use the steroids for a season or a school year. Unfortunately, anabolic steroids can be addictive, making it hard to stop. And once users stop taking steroids, they can have withdrawals.
- Often irreversible liver damage
- Acne, often severe, and seen on the back and face
- Extreme aggression and combativeness
- Dangerous enlargement of the heart, that may increase blood pressure
- Premature closer of the growth plates, stopping normal growth of bones
- Believe things that aren’t true (delusions)
- Extreme feelings of mistrust or fear (paranoia)
Risks for Girls
- Increased facial and body hair growth
- Development of deepening of the voice
- Shrinking of the breasts
- Enlargement of the clitoris
- Menstrual cycle changes
Risks for Guys
- Premature balding
- Testicular shrinkage
- Pain when urinating
- Irreversible breast enlargement
- Inability to get an erection
- Reduced sperm count and infertility
How Anabolic Steroids Work
Anabolic steroids stimulate muscle tissue to grow and “bulk up” in response to training by mimicking the effect of naturally produced testosterone on the body. Anabolic steroids can remain in the body anywhere from a couple of days to about a year. Steroids may improve endurance, strength, and muscle mass, however research has not shown that steroids improve skill, agility, or athletic performance.
Potential Anabolic Steroid Dangers
Do not think that performance enhancing drugs are only a problem of the elite athletes. Our kids are exposed to these drugs on a daily basis in our hometowns. Get involved and ask them about what they know about these drugs. Ask them if they know if any of their classmates are using these drugs. Ask them if they know the potential dangers of performance enhancing drugs. If you think your child may be experimenting with these drugs, talk to your doctor.
It is also important to talk with the coaches and ask if yearly physicals are required by the league or school for athletic participants. A pre-participation physical by a physician is an invaluable way to screen for potential performance enhancing drug use in athletes. Ask the coaches if they know if any of their athletes have experimented with performance enhancing drugs.
Winning is not worth permanent damage to your health.