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The steroid syndrome

Could your teen be abusing steroids? Before you swear, “No way,” consider this: Three million Americans—and one out of every 10 teens—use anabolic steroids. Steroids, also known by slang names like juice, gym candy and pumpers, are synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone, which help build muscle mass and increase endurance, making the drugs particularly popular with athletes. But the problem of steroid abuse isn’t reserved for athletes or boys. Girls are using the drugs, too, in an effort to boost athleticism, trim body fat or improve their look. Although steroids can enhance athletic performance and lead to a bigger or buffer, stronger-looking physique, it comes with a heavy—and sometimes deadly—price. Besides being illegal to possess without a prescription, steroids can cause violent mood swings and aggression as well as increase a user’s risk for stroke, heart disease, stunted growth, a weakened immune system and even some types of cancer.

Signs of trouble

While many steroid symptoms can pass for typical teenage angst, it’s important to talk to your teen and a professional if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Behavior changes. Steroid users can experience extreme mood swings and sudden bouts of aggression, known as “ ‘roid rage.” Your teen may become depressed as he or she comes off the drugs.
  • Sexual changes. In a boy you may see breast growth; in a girl, you may notice facial hair growth and a deepening voice.
  • Physical changes. Steroids can cause severe acne, greasy hair and even baldness in both girls and boys.

What to do

If you suspect your child may be taking steroids, you owe it to your child and your family to determine the truth and take action.

  • Seek professional help. Talk to your child’s doctors, teachers and coaches for guidance.
  • Clarify your zero-tolerance policy. Make it clear to your child that drug use of any type will not be tolerated. Explain risks of drug use and the consequences you’ll enforce.
  • Teach fair play. Steroid use upsets the playing field, so to speak, giving users a performance advantage. Teach your child the values of practice and good conditioning and point out the many sports figures who found athletic achievement without using steroids.
  • Keep your eyes open. Check you teen’s credit card purchases and learn what he or she is buying via the Internet since most steroids are often purchased online.