In recent years I’ve seen more and more teens admitted to the hospital due to the side effects of Ergogenic drugs. You may have never heard the name, but they are substances used to enhance athletic performance, such as the ever present steroids. Teens tell us they are encouraged by their peers, coaches and sometimes even their parents to take these drugs, despite the fact that most of them are illegal in youth athletics. But there is some serious pressure to succeed and be the best, at all costs. Professional and elite athletes have used them for years. Teens say that even though some of these stars have gotten caught using these substances, their fame and success almost proves that these drugs are accepted, if not necessary to succeed!

The most commonly used substances and supplements in youth athletics include:

  • Anabolic/Androgenic Steroids
  • DHEA
  • Growth Hormone
  • Creatine

Anabolic/Androgenic Steroids: Steroids are synthetic derivatives of testosterone.

  • Controlled substance (banned)
  • Goals of Use: used by young athletes to gain muscle mass and strength
  • Proven Athletic Effect: cause gains in strength and fat-free muscle mass
  • Side Effects: multiple organ systems affected; may cause infertility, increase in breast size in males, masculine traits in females (facial hair, deeper voice, acne), high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, aggression and depression.

DHEA: Steroid precursors

  • Nutritional Supplement
  • Goals of Use: increase testosterone in order to gain muscle mass and strength
  • Proven Athletic Effect: no measurable effect
  • Side Effects: similar to steroids; increase cholesterol, increase breast size in males and masculine traits in females.

Growth Hormone: hormone which controls bone growth, fats and blood sugar control

  • Controlled Substance (banned in all major sporting leagues)
  • Goals of Use: increase muscle mass, strength, and definition
  • Proven Athletic Effect: decrease fat; no measurable athletic effect
  • Side Effects: headaches, muscle pain, diabetes, high blood pressure, abnormal growth of bones and other organs

Creatine: naturally produced by the liver, kidneys and pancreas also found in meat and fish

  • Nutritional Supplement
  • Goals of Use: increase muscle mass and strength
  • Proven Athletic Effect: increases muscle mass, some performance benefits in short, intense sports like weight lifting, sprinting or jumping
  • Side Effects: dehydration, muscle cramps, kidney malfunction and stomach problems

Other Considerations:

  • Some of these substances (especially steroids) cause changes in mood. Teens who abuse steroids have been shown to be more likely to drink alcohol and use marijuana
  • Even legal substances may have impurities in productions, making it possible for a young athlete to test positive for a banned substance
  • Supplements may also interact with prescribed medications, especially ADHD meds
  • Side effects can be seen in adolescents even a very low doses
  • Some young athletes will take additional medications, easily bought on the internet to counteract side effects of steroids, making the use of these drugs even more dangerous

Make sure you are open with your young athlete, discuss the issue of supplements and drugs, stay tuned to changes in body appearance and behavior and monitor internet use! Most of these substances are easily purchased online!

Stay tuned for Part 2, when we discuss signs that your teen might be using these drugs and what you can do to help!

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