Approximately one in 20 middle school and high school students have used an anabolic steroid in order to increase muscle mass, indicates a report from lead researcher Marla Eisenberg and team from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. According to the report, almost all of the 2,800 students surveyed had been involved in at least one type of muscle-building activity during the last year, including steroid use, protein shakes to recover from workout and weight-lifting.
“Really the pressure to start using (steroids) is in high school,” Dr. Linn Goldberg, from Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, told Reuters. “You get the influence of older teens in high school, so when you’re a 14-year-old that comes in, you have 17-year-olds who are the seniors, and they can have great influence as you progress into the next stage of your athletic career.”
The research on steroid use among teens, which surveyed middle and high school students from Minneapolis/St. Paul, found the vast majority of students (91 percent of boys and 81 percent of girls) utilized exercise as their primary method for increasing muscle mass.
Other findings included:
- 68 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls changed their eating habits in order to aim for what they perceived was an ideal body image.
- 35 percent of boys and 21 percent of girls used protein powders or shakes to increase or reinforce their body shape.
- 11 percent of boys and 6 percent of girls used other muscle-enhancing substances such as amino acids and growth hormones.
- 6 percent of boys and 5 percent of girls used steroids to bulk-up.
“The use of muscle-enhancing behaviors is substantially higher than has been previously reported and is cause for concern. Pediatricians and other health care providers should ask their adolescent patients about muscle-enhancing behaviors,” wrote study researchers.
Steroid use among teens
“Media images of men and women have become increasingly muscular, and muscle-enhancing techniques are available to youth,” wrote the researchers. “Identifying populations at risk for unhealthy muscle-enhancing behaviors is of considerable public health importance.”
Steroid use is not always easy to spot; however, the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a medical teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, side-effects of steroid use in teens include:
- Ankle/foot swelling
- Liver damage
- Painful joints
- Mood swings
- High blood pressure
Signs specific to women include:
- Increase in masculine appearance
- Menstruation changes
- Clitoris enlargement
- Breast size reduction
Changes specific to men include:
- Shrinking of the testicles
- Difficulty urinating
- Reduced sperm count
- Breast development
Researchers indicated steroid use was not found to be more prevalent in certain schools, indicating factors beyond the education system were at work to influence teenagers’ behaviors.
“Rather than being driven by a particular school sports team coach or other features of a school’s social landscape, this diffusion suggests that muscle-enhancing behaviors are widespread and influenced by factors beyond school, likely encompassing social and cultural variables such as media messages and social norms of behavior more broadly,” wrote the researchers.