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Male teenagers at risk of steroid abuse.

Male teenagers at risk of steroid abuse

About 1 out of 15 male high school seniors in the United States take anabolic steroids, according to new research. "We've established for the first time on a national basis that significant numbers of high school students are using these drugs," says Charles E. Yesalis III of the Pennsylvania State University.

Yesalis, William E. Buckley and their colleagues distributed a confidential questionnaire on steroid use to seniors in 46 public and private high schools across the nation. Just over half of the 6,765 seniors agreed to participate in the study. In the Dec. 16 JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, the researchers say 6.6 percent of 12th-grade males surveyed reported steroid use.

More than one-third of the self-professed users said they first started taking the body-building drugs at age 15 or younger. Another third said they began taking them by age 16. "These data indicate that anabolic steroids have been used at all high school grade levels and perhaps at the junior high school level as well," write the authors.

The evidence suggests some students already show patterns of long-term steroid abuse. The researchers found that 44 percent "stacked" their steroids, taking more than one type at a time. The report also notes that 38.1 percent of users took their steroids both orally and by injection.

Nearly half the steroid users said they took the drugs to boost athletic performance, but 26.7 percent said their primary motive was to improve their appearance. Indeed, the researchers found that 35.2 percent of users did not intend to participate in school athletic programs. These teens may take the drugs and then work out on body-building machines, Buckley suggests.

The price of a more muscular body may be high indeed. The researchers say adolescents who use steroids risk stunted growth, infertility and certain psychological problems.

Where does a high school student get steroids? Buckley's team found most teens obtained steroids from a coach, a private gym employee or other body builders. But one-fifth of the users said they got their supply from health-care professionals such as doctors, veterinarians or pharmacists. Steroids are legitimately prescribed for certain medical conditions such as delayed puberty, but most physicians consider it unethical to prescribe them to healthy teenagers.
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Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Dec 17, 1988
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