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Prevention and What You Need to Know

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 2011 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.
  • Anabolic steroids have been found in over-the-counter supplements, without being identified on the label.
  • 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” can be counterproductive. This is because young athletes know about professional athletes who have used steroids successfully and look fine. 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 (Athletes Training & Learning to Avoid Steroids) and ATHENA (Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise & Nutrition Alternatives) programs. The programs are research-based, studied with support of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and have been used in 45 states with the assistance of the National Football League.

Editor:

Linn Goldberg, MD, FACSM
Oregon Health and Science University

Last Review: June 2013