Local, state, and national strategies are needed to prevent the use of performance-enhancing drugs in young people.
Here are some facts about hormone abuse that you should know:
- The CDC's 2007 survey found that nearly 4 percent of high school students in the United States used anabolic steroid pills or shots without a prescription. Young people can find these drugs from users who are at gyms and sports-training centers, and on the Internet.
- Publications available online and elsewhere give recipes for "stacking" and "cycling." Stacking refers to using several steroids at once. Cycling describes how to use steroids for several weeks and then stop using for several weeks. Easy-to-obtain catalogs and advertisements show how to purchase steroids.
- Young people have abused anabolic steroids meant for animals by getting access to veterinary steroids. These steroids are often cheaper and easier to obtain than anabolic steroids designed for people.
- Steroid users are often risk-takers who use a variety of harmful substances. Twenty-five percent of steroid users share needles, which increases the risk of infectious disease.
- Some evidence shows that anabolic steroids can be addictive, but more research is needed. There is evidence that large doses of anabolic steroids affect the brain's chemistry and produce mental changes.
- You may be able to see symptoms of steroid abuse in your child. Check out the section of this Web page on Health Effects, Risks, and Psychological Symptoms. Changes can be both physical and emotional.
- Telling youngsters only about the harmful effects of steroids is not enough to stop them. In fact there is evidence that scare tactics are often counterproductive. This is because young athletes know about professional athletes who have used steroids successfully. The best approach may be to admit the positive effects of steroids, but discuss the dangerous and permanent consequences of their use. Most important, adolescents should be given alternative approaches such as proper nutrition and physical training that will allow them to achieve the body image they desire. Some programs that have had success using a combination of factors include the ATLAS and ATHENA programs.
- The ATLAS (Athletes Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids) program—designed for young male athletes—was developed at the Oregon Health and Science University and has been very successful. ATLAS coaches and peer-teachers use an interactive classroom approach to educate young men about steroids, supplements, and other drugs. They also provide sports nutrition diet and exercise alternatives to improve an athlete's strength and physical capacity. ATLAS reduced athletic supplement, alcohol, and illicit drug use, and improved the nutrition habits of male athletes.
- ATHENA (Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives)—a program for female athletes—has been tested in middle and high schools. Its purpose is to combat steroid use, body-shaping drugs, and eating disorder practices. Research results showed that students participating in the ATHENA program reduced use of diet pills and other substances, such as amphetamines, anabolic steroids, and muscle-building supplements.
- Both ATLAS and ATHENA research were supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health. Currently the National Football League has sponsored high school programs located in the vicinity of 14 NFL teams. In the past two years, over 30,000 student-athletes and their coaches have been trained.
The Hormone Health Networkthe public education affiliate of The Endocrine Society—is gathering the best available information on effective prevention efforts and will continue to share this information with the public. We will post the latest facts on prevention and other aspects of hormone abuse at this site and in other publications.
Lisa Fish, MD
Chair, Hormone Abuse Program
Endocrinologist, Park Nicollet Clinic; Minneapolis, MN
Linn Goldberg, MD, FACSM
Professor of Medicine and Head of the Division of Health Promotion and Sports Medicine Oregon Health and Science University; Portland, OR
Last Review: February 2009