Would You Know If Your Teen was Using Steroids?
Parents need to know the symptoms ... and the risks
Has your teenage son become angry, moody, hostile or tempermental? It is possible that he is using anabolic steroids. How can you find out? What are the risks?
Over the past few years, many professional athletes have confessed that they have used anabolic steroids to enhance their performance. Although this has caused many of these athletes to lose their recognition and their records, the publicity only seems to fuel the interest of many teens in giving these illegal drugs a try. Often, they convince themselves that they won't get caught. Or, they reason that if they just try it for a while, it could give them just the athletic edge they need.
In addition, many teenage boys are concerned that they are not going to grow to be as big and strong as they would like. As a result, they often try all types of vitamin pills, protein shakes and just about anything they can find to help them build muscle mass. Unfortunately, an estimated 1% of teenage boys turn to anabolic steroids … which, in extreme cases, can have fatal consequences. Even if these drugs don't kill them, or contribute to their death, they can still cause other serious health problems.
What are Anabolic Steroids?
Anabolic Steroids are drugs which mimic the male sex hormone, testosterone. As a result, they can cause cell tissue to increase, especially in the muscles. They also speed up or increase male characteristics, such as giving young men a deeper voice, or speeding the growth of body hair. To a young man, these effects can seem harmless enough.
The History of Anabolic Steroids
Steroids were first synthesized in the 1930s. Today, they are used by doctors to help stimulate bone growth and appetite, and speed up male puberty. They are also helpful when men are wasting away from chronic illnesses, such as cancer or AIDS, because they do increase appetite and, when combined with the proper diet, can help the seriously ill to regain body weight.
Parents may also want to read a book about steroid use, to get more detailed information. If so, you can use this quick Amazon link to books about steroid abuse. Most people will discover that the abuse of these drugs is quite shocking.
What are the Physical Risks?
Unfortunately, these substances are often abused. In particular, teens and young men use them when they are not ill. They obtain these drugs illegally, and take them without the supervision of a physician. When this happens, there can be dangerous consequences.
Anabolic steroids can raise the level of "bad" cholesterol, and decrease the amount of "good" cholesterol in the body. They can also cause acne, high blood pressure, liver damage and dangerous enlargement and thickening in the left ventricle of the heart. The young men will have an increased risk of heart disease at an early age, including arrhythmia, congestive heart failure, heart attacks and sudden cardiac death. The steroids can also increase the libido, suppress natural sex hormones, and reduce the production of sperm. These drugs can also cause premature baldness.
What are the Mental Risks?
Steroid use can cause significant psychiatric problems, including aggression, violence, anxiety, paranoia, depression and mania. Suicide has sometimes been associated with steroid abuse. Often, the behavior of steroid users is known as "roid rage." Has your teen suddenly begun hitting his fist against the wall, blowing up over small problems, or displaying other uncharacteristic acts of anger? You might consider steroids as a possible explanation.
A 2008 study in the United States found an association between using steroids and involvement in violent acts.
Consequences for Athletes
Steroid use, or "doping," is banned by almost every major sports organization, including the International Olympic Committee, Major League Baseball, the national Football League, World Wrestling Entertainment, Ultimate Fighting Championship, etc. If a teen uses these drugs in an attempt to give him a competitive edge, he may find himself kicked out of competitions, instead.
Steroids are listed on Schedule III of the Controlled Substances Act, and it is illegal to use them without a prescription. A first offense for possession is a federal crime that is punishable by up to one year in prison. If they believe that your intent was to sell or distribute the steroids, you can be sentenced to up to ten years in prison. Some teens have gotten involved in the illegal distribution of steroids, in order to obtain a supply for themselves.
How Can Parents Recognize the Symptoms?
Has your son suddenly developed muscle bulk? Have you found unexplained hypodermic needles in your son's trash? Injection is the most common form of self-administration, but it is not the only one. Have you found unexplained bottles of pills, or discarded skin patches? Your child may dismiss the pills as "vitamins" he is taking, or say the transdermal patches are for some other purpose, such as motion sickness. Has his voice grown unusually deep? Has your teenage son become particularly moody or developed a violent temper? These may not be just the behaviors of a typical teenage boy, but symptoms of anabolic steroid use.
If you even suspect that your son could be abusing steroids, you should have him thoroughly checked out by a physician. Privately, let the doctor know about your concerns. They can either confirm your concern, or alleviate your worries, usually through a urine test. The steroids can be detected up to 30 days after the last use. This is not something that a parent should ignore. If your teen is using anabolic steroids, they are taking a huge risk.
To read more about health and safety concerns with teenagers, you may also want to read:
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