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Steroid use among male high school athletes.

STEROID USE AMONG MALE HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES

Anabolic steroids--the drugs that disqualified Canadian Ben Johnson from his 1988 Summer Olympic gold medal last September in Seoul, South Korea--seem to be favored among athletes of non-professional and non-Olympic caliber as well. A recent survey of over 3400 male high school seniors questioned in 46 public and private institutions across the nation suggests that adolescent athletes are using steroids more frequently than was originally suspected and that their methods for obtaining them are often less than legal.

Anabolic steroids (AS), first used by athletes as early as the 1950s, are hormones synthetically combined to increase constructive metabolism. For athletes this means a temporary increase in muscle size, something that can give the runner, the weight lifter, or anyone involved in a physically gruelling sport, the edge over his or her competitor. The current Physicians' Desk Reference (PDR), considered by many health professionals to be the "Bible" for prescription drugs, lists steroids under the product category of hormones. Nearly three-quarters of a page, involving nearly 200 different brand names and close to 50 different drug manufacturers, is devoted to these drugs in their various combinations. Although athletes have been known to use steroids in any and all forms, the most popular are the anabolics and the androgens (male sex hormones). Federal law prohibits dispensing steroid drugs without prescription, but, as will be demonstrated, there are other means for the athlete to obtain the drugs if he wants them badly enough.

William E. Buckley, Ph.D., of the Pennsylvania State University's department of health and human development, headed the study which surveyed the 3403 male high school seniors. Buckley and his associates determined that, of that number, almost 7 percent admitted they either use or had used anabolic or androgenic steroids up to that point in their athletic careers. Buckley admits to a number of possible gaps in the reasoning behind that figure; for instance, he wonders about the various institutions who chose not to allow their students to participate in the study--did their administrators have something to hide or were they not aware a problem existed in their schools? Likewise, he wonders how truthful the students were when they did answer the study's questionnaire--did they gloss over their situations or did they exaggerate as a form of defiant bragging? Nevertheless, it is when one examines variables involving the percentage who admit steroid usage that one finds some interesting--and chilling--facts. For example, two-thirds of the admitted users said they began AS use at 16 years of age or younger. Only 21 percent of the user group claimed they obtained their steroids through the only legally acceptable source available: the health professional (including veterinarians). Almost 61 percent said the "black market" (other athletes, coaches, gyms, etc.) supplied them, while the rest came from mail order companies which advertise non-FDA approved steroids in the backs of some bodybuilding magazines.

AS drugs have been proven to cause phallic enlargement and persistance of erections in males who have not reached puberty; males beyond the puberty stage must often cope with testes shrinkage, inhibition of testicular function and impotence after repeated steroid usage. At the same time, the PDR warns (in bold capital letters, no less) that "ANABOLIC STEROIDS DO NOT ENHANCE ATHLETIC ABILITY." The Buckley study offers the first picture of the nature and scope of AS use by the general male adolescent population. As such, intervention strategies, drug rehabilitation programs and overall health risk assessment can now be developed, whereas before there were no clear data on which to base such developments. Buckley and his associates urge school systems to place educational intervention strategies at the high school level or earlier. They also urge that further studies be developed to deal with the specific psychological and social mannerisms of the AS user and that these studies use the Buckley data figures as guidelines.
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Title Annotation:Pennsylvania State University study
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Feb 1, 1989
Words:646
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