We were recently asked by a major news magazine if teenage steroid and PED use constitutes a significant health problem. The answer: a resounding yes.
Like health problems such as child abuse, elder abuse and date rape, adolescent steroid use exists underground and sometimes undetectable. Most physicians, parents, teachers, and others in contact with teens do not understand the issue. How many doctors, for instance, work out at Gold's Gym (or 1 on 1 Elite Personal Fitness in Deer Park, TX) to understand the culture of covert PED use?
At our hospital -- the University of Iowa -- the lab tests to detect steroid use (detection of nandrolone, T:E ratio etc.) are not offered. Clinicians and lab personnel do not appreciate the appropriate labs to detect the problem. Therefore, when a 'bulked-up' teen athlete presents with unusually aggressive behavior, the possibility of steroid use is not considered or not investigated. (Following a recent presentation on steroid use, this author was criticized because the issue was not clinically relevant.)
She just wanted six-pack abdominal muscles. So in the summer of 2003, Dionne Passacantando, a 17-year-old high school cheerleader, gymnast, and vice president of her Allen (Texas) High School class, made a decision she regrets. She bought anabolic steroids from a boy on the school football team.
"Nobody frowned upon it," she said. "It was easier for me to get those than it probably was to buy beer."
But after injecting herself with Winstrol every other day for five weeks, she became suicidal.
"I was the last person in the world you'd think would use anabolic steroids," she said.
There are those who argue that steroid abuse does not induce behavioral changes. There are those who argue the drugs do not produce significant side effects. Any story that purports those claims should be either regarded with skepticism, or perhaps treated with disdain (you decide).
There are those who say that steroid and PED use be treated like Lasik surgery, as an aid to performance improvement. Anyone ever see a patient who underwent Lasik surgery murder his son, and his wife, then kill himself as Chris Benoit did?
The young lady from Texas (cheerleaders now use 'roids) knew about Tyler Hooton:
he July 2003 suicide of 17-year-old Taylor Hooton has haunted her.
Hooton and Roberts never met, though their schools are rivals just north of Dallas.
"We probably knew the same people and probably got our stuff from the same people," Roberts said.
Hooton was a 6-foot-2-inch, or 1.88-meter, 180-pound, or 82 kilogram, pitcher for his Plano, Texas, high school team. According to the Hooton family, Taylor was told by his coach that "he needed to be bigger" for his senior year. Taylor used steroids, became depressed, and hanged himself from his bedroom door on July 15, 2003.
His father, Don Hooton, started the Taylor Hooton Foundation to fight steroid abuse...
The week Taylor Hooton died was the week Dionne Roberts started using steroids, she said. She said at least half the Allen football team was on steroids.
"A lot of parents and coaches were OK with the fact that this was going on," she said. "I feel it was even encouraged to a point."
The school's athletic director, Steve Williams, disputes that.
"I'd have a hard time believing that's the truth," he said. "We have no knowledge of that. Are we naive to say steroids don't exist here? No."
Unfortunately the AD is wrong: physicians nurses, coaches, AD, and principals are not well educated about teen steroid use, and often unaware (in other cases coaches promote it). While adolescent PED abuse is not public health problem #1, it is as not insignificant as some will tell you.
It won't be long until American teen females suffer the same problems the girls from the East German doping machine suffered: short term problems including voice changes, genital hypertrophy, and long term problems including mood changes and birth defects. Then maybe someone will believe.
The IHT points out some of the studies:
Her story is part of a much larger picture. The Mitchell Report, which detailed steroid use in major league baseball, noted that while steroid use among high schoolers seems to be declining, it is still estimated that 3 to 6 percent of students in the United States have tried them. That means that, at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of high school students are using.
A recent report by the Oregon Health and Science University using data from the Centers for Disease Control said 5.3 percent of teenage girls admitted to using anabolic steroids, mostly for body-enhancing reasons or self-protection, not athletics. According to 2003 CDC data, seventh-grade girls were the fastest-growing group of steroid users, with more than 7 percent using them, the controversial report stated.
The prevalence of teen PED use is controversial:
Dr. Harrison Pope, professor of psychiatry at Harvard and director of biological psychiatry at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachussetts, said the number of girls doing steroids is greatly inflated. But Dr. Linn Goldberg, head of health promotion and sports medicine at Oregon Health and Science University and one of the lead authors of the university's report, scoffs at Pope's claim.
"That's like a blind man grabbing the tail of an elephant and saying the elephant is shaped like a snake," said Goldberg.
"It's a very secretive thing that is common with any drug abuser," said Roberts. "It's not something you flaunt. You don't want people to know."