With the renewed media attention of steroids following the admission by New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez of using performance-enhancing drugs, I thought it was time to make mom's aware of the signs of potential steroid use in their children. (I'll leave my posting on my profound disappointment that our kids are seeing yet another sports legend fall for another time).
Unfortunately, steroids are being used by kids as young as 13 and 14. According to statistics released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2004, 7.3% of ninth grade girls and 6.9% of ninth grade boys had already used performance-enhancing drugs. When they see sports legends such as Marion Jones, Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens using steroids it seems not only acceptable but the path to a promising professional sports career. It’s critical that parents, teachers and coaches work together to educate teens on the physical dangers of steroids as well as the ethical concerns.
While steroids do have the short term benefit of building muscle and giving them more of a sculpted body, many teens aren’t aware of the long term damage associated with the drugs that might not show up until much later. This can include:
- stunted growth in teens (by causing bones to mature too fast and stop growing at an early age)
- liver tumors
- abnormal enlargement of the heart muscles
- violent, aggressive behavior and mood swings
- acne (or a worsening of acne)
- increased breast growth in males, especially teens
- 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
So how do you know if your child is taking steroids? Here are some of the symptoms to be aware of:
- Rapid weight gain
- Sudden increase in muscle size
- Acne flare up
- Aggressive behavior and/or mood swings
Immediately consult with your pediatrician if you suspect that your child is taking steroids and enlist the support of your child’s coaches and teachers. As always, be aware of conversations they’re having with their friends, both on and off-line. Some street names for steroids include Arnies, A's, anabolics, balls or bulls, gym candy, juice, pumpers, roids, stackers, and weight trainers.
Most importantly, keep talking to your teen about the positive ways to compete in sports such as maintaining a healthy diet and getting enough sleep. Be aware of what messages they’re receiving from their coaches about competition as well.