Today's Steroid Abuse Epidemic: Turning the Tide

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Even though your child might not be using steroids, parents should be concerned about the factors that cause steroid abuse, such as glorification of unnaturally muscular bodies; teenagers’ feeling of immunity to bodily damage and death; and the easy availability of steroids, along with other illegal substances. There are things that parents can do to help solve this growing problem in their community.

Some body image issues, such as anorexia, or self-starving, receive extensive press.

Far less attention, however, is given to the highly dangerous use of steroids -- a habit which often begins in the pursuit of a muscled “bulked up” body.

The images of buff athletes can have an impact that may encourage your child to eventually turn to steroids, if not right now. A similar impact has been seen among girls who later adopt the image of extremely thin models and actresses as their role model.

All parents, therefore, should be aware of factors that cause steroid abuse, such as glorification of unnaturally muscular bodies, the belief by teens that they are immune to illness, injury and death, and the easy availability of steroids.

This is not just a family issue, it is a community-wide concern.

    Parents can get the word out:

  •     Approach coaches and school health nurses to ask for their cooperation in informing young people of steroid dangers;
  •     Organize school discussions with speakers who are experts on the subject and can relate to young people;
  •     Request schools to provide links from official school Web sites to experts in the field of steroid abuse, and information on its dangers and warning signs;
  •     Ask local sports writers and talk show hosts to address the issue;
  •     Lobby local, state and national lawmakers to make steroid abuse awareness a priority;
  •     Develop table-top displays of pamphlets and books on steroid abuse to display in cafeterias or at special events.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows steroid use among male high school students rose 65 percent from 3.7 to 6.1 percent between 1999 and 2003; among female students it jumped from 2.2 to 5.3 percent, or a whopping 140 percent. Many of these young people have as their unfortunate role models certain high-profile athletes who have been implicated in steroid use.

Awareness is beginning to be transformed into action. This year, New Jersey becomes the first state to begin random steroid testing for high school athletes, at the executive order of Governor Richard Codey. This mandate, with penalties including suspension from team sports, will bring limited attention to steroid use, but it is simply an adjunct to what is most critical -- the nationwide mobilization of parents.

The burden for this scrutiny has to fall on parents and other loved ones because society has not raised enough red flags. Siblings and friends may be the first to notice danger signs among abusers, such as increased musculature or an unusual outbreak of acne, predominately on chest and back.

As a former steroid abuser I know the dangers all too well. At the time I abused steroids they were an “under the radar” drug; my parents didn’t even know what they were. Public awareness has grown, but judging from continued popularity of steroids, young people still refuse to admit they are playing roulette with their health. In addition, residents of communities with popular school and/or successful sports programs may be afraid to speak up even if they suspect there is steroid use.

They need to. Their action may save lives.

Potential hazards of steroid abuse include heart disease, liver disease including cancerous tumors, aggressive behavior, depression, infertility, hair loss, changes in genitals, high blood pressure, permanent stunting of growth, wear and tear on tendons and ligaments -- and use of other illegal drugs.

Steroids can kill.

NOTE: Rutstein available for interviews. Review copies and head shot available.

CONTACT: Jeff Rutstein, 800-374-9959.

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