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Steroids and girls.

Q I have a 15-year-old daughter who is very athletic, especially in track. She could he good enough to get a college scholarship. But I'm worried because I'm hearing so much about athletes using steroids. I know about pro athletes using steroids to try to be the best they can be, but is this something that girls are doing? Is so, what are the dangers associated with it, and how can I tell if my daughter is involved with steroids?

L.M., Atlanta

A As you know, whenever there's a troubling question, it's best to go directly to the source. So the first thing you should do is talk to your daughter to find out what she knows about steroids, and ask her point blank if she has had any involvement with these performance-enhancing drugs.

Although the focus of steroid use is directed at professional athletes, there are studies that indicate a troubling trickle-down effect that has entered the lives of many younger athletes, including girls. Some studies indicate that 5 percent of high school girls have used steroids. But more troubling, scientists say, is the fact that this problem isn't limited to girls who compete athletically. It also includes a growing number who are looking for a way to get thinner by reducing body fat.

Doctors say anabolic steroids, illegal if used for nonmedical purposes, can be taken orally, injected or absorbed through the skin as a cream or through a patch. Girls who use the drugs can expect a list of primary side effects--developing a deep voice, shrinking breasts, abnormal menstrual periods, enlarged Adam's apple. Extended use may lead to severe depression, listlessness, insomnia, irritability, loss of appetite, liver problems, premature heart disease, blood-clotting problems and high cholesterol levels.

Other medical experts say mood swings are the most common sign of steroid use, but other indicators include an obsession with body image, severe acne that appears suddenly (primarily on the face and back) and quick gains in muscle growth and strength.

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Title Annotation:House Call: Expert Advice on Health and Fitness
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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