Teens and steroids: A dangerous combo


The teenage years can be very awkward for young boys and girls. They may feel uncomfortable because their bodies are developing slower than some of the others kids their age. Or, they may be involved in sports and feel they need to increase their muscle mass or athletic performance. For these reasons, some teenagers resort to trying steroids, drugs that mimic the actions of the male sex hormone testosterone. Steroids promote cell growth, especially in the muscles. However, steroids also have very serious adverse effects that may cause permanent organ damage.

Steroids are prescription drugs that are approved to treat specific conditions. Healthcare practitioners may prescribe them if the person has low steroid levels, muscle wasting, poor wound healing, or some respiratory or bone marrow diseases. But steroids can cause serious, and many times irreversible, injury. For example, steroids can cause fertility problems, impotence, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and heart and liver abnormalities. Boys may develop breast tissue and have shrinkage of the testes. Girls may develop facial and body hair and have menstrual irregularities. Both may develop more acne. And both may experience mood swings and aggressive behavior that can impact everyone around them.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) strictly regulates steroids. It is illegal to even possess steroids without a prescription. Pharmacists cannot take prescription orders for steroids over the phone. They must have a written prescription to fill the order. So, how are teenagers getting these drugs?

Teenagers may receive a prescription from a licensed healthcare provider. Or, they may get them on the street or online without a prescription. There are also some dietary supplements and vitamins that are advertised for body building but illegally contain steroids or steroid-like substances.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is taking steps to prevent illegal sales of steroids. The agency is also warning parents and teenagers about the dangers of steroids.

Here's what you can do: Discuss with teens healthy ways to increase muscle mass and athletic performance, such as exercise and diet. Watch for signs of steroid abuse, including mood swings, depression, acne, breast development in boys, and increased body hair growth in girls. If abuse is suspected, seek medical help.

Advice from FDA is a feature brought to you by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You can find this article and more on FDA's Consumer Health Information website at: www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm373014.htm. Sign up for a free email subscription at: https://service.govdelivery.com/service/subscribe.html?code=USFDA_9.

Created on September 24, 2014

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