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Is my teenager taking steriods?

Norm Saba, MD  

Norm Saba, MD, is a Mesa pediatrician and is chair of Pediatrics at Cardon Children’s Medical Center.

Question: How might I know if my teenager is using steriods to enhance athleticism?

Answer: There are signs to look for if you suspect steroid use. Steroids enhance and stimulate muscle tissue to grow and “bulk up.” Steroids mimic the effect of naturally produced testosterone in the body during athletic training.

These artificial drugs can cause side effects that include:

  • acne
  • oily hair
  • purple or red spots on the skin
  • swelling of the legs and feet
  • persistent bad breath

They can also cause more serious or long-lasting side effects, like premature balding, dizziness, paranoia, hallucinations, mood swings, depression, trembling, jaundice, heart disease, stroke, and cancer. In addition, some gender-specific problems can occur with chronic steroid use.

Males may notice breast development, testicular shrinkage, pain when urinating, impotence and sterility. Females can develop masculine traits, such as deepening of the voice, as well as losing feminine characteristics, such as shrinking of the breasts. They may also experience increased facial hair growth and changes in their menstrual cycles. Another negative effect of steroids is aggressive or combative behavior. This is known as “roid rage” – extreme, uncontrolled bouts of anger caused by long-term steroid use.

Parents, particularly of children who participate in competitive sports, should be aware of the signs of steroid use and be on the lookout for changes in their child’s physical or psychological attributes. If your child has some of the symptoms described above, you should seek the advice of a medical expert.

Ask the doctor about healthy ways (through diet and exercise) to boost athletic performance. Parents should talk to their children about potential dangers from steroid use. The quest for the “perfect” body or enhanced physical performance can lead teens to be tempted by the allure of steroids. It’s estimated that as many as 5% of teen boys and 2.5% of teen girls use some form of anabolic or androgenic steroids in the United States.

Page Last Modified: 08/28/2013
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