It's important to understand the facts about steroids, their side effects, and
what can drive kids and teens to try them. Being aware of the kinds of pressures kids
deal with in sports can help you make sure that your child isn't at risk.
What Are Steroids?
Drugs commonly referred to as "steroids" are classified as corticosteroids
or anabolic (or anabolic-androgenic)
Corticosteroids, such as cortisone, are drugs that doctors prescribe to help control
inflammation. They're used to help control conditions like asthma
and lupus. They're not
the same as the anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones that can boost the body's ability to produce
muscle and prevent muscle breakdown.
Some athletes take steroids in the hopes that they will improve their ability to
run faster, hit farther, lift heavier weights, jump higher, or have more endurance.
In the United States, it is against the law to use anabolic steroids without a prescription.
Androstenedione, or "andro," is a kind of anabolic steroid taken by athletes who
want to build muscle. It is now a controlled substance because of suspected health
risks and available only by prescription. There is little or no evidence that it has
any significant anabolic effects.
Why Do People Use Steroids?
Some professional baseball players, cyclists, and track stars have been accused
of — and in some cases have admitted to — using steroids to give them
an edge competitively.
Steroid use has trickled down to younger athletes too, who face pressure to be
stronger and faster, and to make it to college and professional leagues.
Steroids promise bold results, but there is little proof that they deliver any
such benefits. But they can harm developing kids — with some of these
ill effects not likely to turn up until years later.
How Do Anabolic Steroids Work?
Anabolic steroids are drugs that resemble the chemical structure of the sex hormone
testosterone, which is made naturally by the body. Testosterone directs
the body to make or enhance male characteristics, such as increased muscle mass, facial
hair growth, and deepening of the voice, and is an important part of male development
When anabolic steroids increase the levels of testosterone in the blood, they stimulate
muscle tissue in the body to grow larger and stronger. However, the effects of too
much testosterone circulating in the body can be harmful over time.
What Are Dangers of Anabolic Steroids?
Steroids are dangerous for two reasons: they are illegal, and they can damage a
person's health, especially if used in large doses over time. Also, the health problems
caused by steroids may not appear until years after the steroids are taken.
Although they might help build muscle, steroids can have very serious side effects.
Using steroids for a long time can harm the reproductive system. In males,
steroids can lead to impotence, a reduction in the amount of sperm produced in the
testicles, and even reduced testicle size.
who use steroids may have problems with their menstrual cycles because steroids can
disrupt the maturation and release of eggs from the ovaries. This can cause long-term
problems with fertility.
Steroids taken for a long period of time also can cause:
stunted growth in teens (by causing bones to mature too fast and stop growing
at an early age)
abnormal enlargement of the heart muscles
violent, aggressive behavior and mood swings
blood lipid abnormalities that contribute to heart disease
acne (or a worsening of acne)
increased breast growth in males, especially teens
irreversible stretch marks
a heightened tendency for hair loss and male-pattern baldness
Teen girls and women risk these additional side effects:
male-type facial and body hair growth and male-pattern baldness
deepening of the voice
enlargement of the clitoris
What Else Can Happen?
Besides the health risks, kids who use steroids without a prescription are breaking
the law. Drug testing for all athletes has become common, and those who fail a drug
test for steroids can face legal consequences, including jail time, monetary fines,
being banned from an event or team, or forfeiture of trophies or medals.
Andro use has been banned by many sports organizations, including the International
Olympic Committee, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association,
the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the Association of Tennis Professionals,
and most high school athletic associations.
Talking to Kids About Steroids
Many pressures might drive young athletes to try steroids. Although most athletes
exercise hard, eat properly, and take care of their bodies to reach fitness and performance
goals, the pressure to excel and the desire to look physically toned and fit can be
Help your kids handle these pressures by:
discussing healthy competition with them
talking about the coaches' and team members' attitudes toward steroids
knowing what kind of sports environments they compete in
encouraging them to prepare mentally and physically for competition by eating
well and getting enough rest
Watch for these warning signs of steroid abuse:
exaggerated mood swings
unusually greasy skin with stretch marks
a sudden increase in muscle size
If you see any of these signs in your child, talk with your doctor. Steroids may
give young athletes the sense that they're stronger and more athletic, but the risks
are too dangerous.
When steroid use among pro athletes is in the news,
use it as a way to discuss the issue, making sure your child understands the health
risks, the possibility of legal trouble, and the concept that steroid use is a form