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Steroids and Teenagers

Steroids and teenagers are often a high point of discussion revolving around the anabolic steroid debate. When the two sides argue, the pro-steroid and anti-steroid camps, often steroids and teenagers are the smoking gun of the anti-crowd. The argument is straightforward; anabolic androgenic steroids are extremely dangerous when used by adolescents. Further, the use of anabolic steroids by athletes sends children the wrong message. This is the brunt of the anti-steroid theme revolving around steroids and teenagers, but the question remains is it a good one?

 If the argument is good, both points made by the anti-crowd must be true; if one proves to be false then the whole of the argument is found lacking. Further, if the argument is to carry any substantial weight, there must be evidence regarding the influence athletes have over children, for if this impact is proven to be strong then absolutely, there is a problem assuming the first point of the argument is also true. Let's take a look at anabolic steroids and teenagers and see what we can find.

What are Anabolic Steroids?

Anabolic steroids, officially known as Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) are synthetic hormones derived from the primary androgen testosterone and Dihydrotestosterone with testosterone being primary. All anabolic androgenic steroids owe their existence to testosterone. These hormones are found naturally in all human beings; all people produce testosterone and the body makes no distinguishing difference between naturally produced and exogenously provided. "Exogenous" simply refers to in this case hormones derived from outside the body.

To fully understand anabolic androgenic steroids, we can largely begin to understand them simply by looking at the name itself. Anabolic refers to muscle hypertrophy or muscle building. Androgenic refers to the male sexual characteristics where "steroids" refers to an organic compound that in this case is of a cholesterol nature. That is correct; anabolic androgenic steroids are fat based hormones.

By their nature anabolic steroids, regardless from where they are derived affect several aspects of the body, especially those revolving around muscularity and the metabolism. However, when we look at the primary anabolic steroid, we see it has many other effects and to understand them we only need to look at what happens when total testosterone levels fall to low levels. When testosterone levels fall, we not only suffer in a direct physical sense regarding muscularity and metabolism but in our sexual function and even in our overall general disposition. Men who suffer from low testosterone often suffer from erectile dysfunction, depression and a host of other unwelcomed effects. Now that we have a general understanding of anabolic steroids the question remains, what does this tell us about steroids and teenagers?

Physical Problems:

Steroids and teenagers do not mix based on one simple fact; their young, fragile bodies simply cannot handle such a large influx of hormones. When steroids and teenagers collide this can seriously damage their growth and development by negatively affecting their skeletal development and even enhancing their puberty rate to an improper level; teenagers who supplement with anabolic steroids often find they dramatically stunt their growth. The argument surrounding steroids and teenagers and the direct physical threats is a solid argument and without question cannot be denied. It must also be noted; beyond the physical damage anabolic steroids can have a negative impact on the mental state of an adolescent especially once use is discontinued. Many teenagers who supplement often find depression to be a severe problem once use is discontinued, as their natural testosterone levels will be extremely low once use is discontinued. This is rarely a problem for healthy adult men, as their bodies simply respond in a more positive fashions, as well as they are generally well-versed in how to discontinue anabolic steroids properly where most children are not.

Influence:

As steroids and teenagers do not mix the concern often stated surrounds the influential factor. Over recent years, the issue of anabolic steroids in professional sports has been highly debated, and as athletes are often viewed as role models to children it is deemed steroid use is damaging based on this factor. We know athletes in all professional sports have been supplementing for years, and despite the law and massive media hysteria, those in the anabolic steroid world know without question these athletes are still supplementing as much if not more than ever.

Beyond athletes, based on our own government's statistics we know that in the U.S. alone over six-million adults are supplementing with anabolic steroids for the pure purpose of performance enhancement and those are only the numbers we know. Based on market sales the number of adults supplementing with anabolic steroids in the U.S. for the strict purpose of performance enhancement is more than twice this number. What about steroids and teenagers? If adolescent use is truly a problem, the numbers should be very alarming.

In a 2010, study funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse asked teenagers from several age groups if they had ever supplemented with anabolic androgenic steroids. Of those surveyed those who answered yes were as follows:

Steroids and Teenagers:
• 8th Graders: 1.1%
• 10th Graders: 1.6%
• 12th Graders 2.0%

What does this tell us? Simply put it tells us the numbers are extremely low. If the argument against anabolic steroids is the impressionable youth, then it is a fallacious argument. Further, if the argument were reasonable then it must consider other activities many professional athletes take part in such as tobacco use and blatant often considered immoral sexual behavior. Further, as our youth are often influenced by their immediate surroundings, this too must be considered. In short, if steroids and teenagers are a big problem, which it is clearly not, how does it stack up against other drugs? Let's take a look according to the NIDA statistics:

Smoking and Teenagers:
• 8th Graders: 20.0%
• 10th Graders: 33.0%
• 12th Graders 42.2%

Smokeless Tobacco and Teenagers:
• 8th Graders: 9.9%
• 10th Graders: 16.8%
• 12th Graders 17.6%

Marijuana and Teenagers:
• 8th Graders: 17.3%
• 10th Graders: 33.4%
• 12th Graders 43.8%

Alcohol and Teenagers:
• 8th Graders: 35.8%
• 10th Graders: 58.2%
• 12th Graders 71.0%

The Parental Factor:

When it comes to anabolic androgenic steroids, or any aspect of life revolving around a young mind the parental factor cannot be ignored, and this most assuredly applies to anabolic steroids and teenagers. Parents who are involved and take an interest in their child's life will be better equipped to keep them from use; after all, if you don't take an interest there's no way you can know what they are doing. No, this is not a perfect solution; as we are all individuals and as history has shown us, all teenagers have the ability to disobey their parents but it's still hard to deny positive parental influence is not just that; a positive factor.

For the parent who suspects his child might be supplementing with anabolic steroids, there are signs you can look for; no, they are not perfect, but you may find they raise suspicion. If your child begins to show massive increases in weight of a muscular nature, this should be the first sign. Of course, some children will simply hit a powerful growth spurt and some will naturally be far more muscular than others, such is life, but a true massive increase is a pretty good indicator and one you might want to take notice of. Further, if your teenager starts displaying more than average acne on their back or shoulders, this may be a reason for suspicion. Teenagers who supplement with anabolic steroids are far more susceptible to acne than adults, simply because their young bodies cannot handle the influx of hormones in such quantities. Last but certainly not least, if your child shows symptoms of depression that seem to come from nowhere they may have recently ended anabolic steroid use. If this occurs do not ignore your child but instead take action in-order to protect them.

Teenagers vs. Adults:

Often and more times than not the argument surrounding steroids and teenagers is a largely based off of the argument against steroids and adults. Again, the basis is simple; steroids are damaging to children, and as they are impressionable anabolic steroids must be illegal; again we ask, is this a solid argument? Steroids and teenagers do not mix; based on the physical effects teenagers cannot and should not supplement with anabolic androgenic steroids. However, based on statistics the influential factor simply isn't there; in-fact, it's almost non-existent. Further, if influence is a factor worthy of consideration then it must apply to all aspects of life; especially tobacco and alcohol and while this is considered based on the law it is also something that is controlled in a manner that protects the liberty of adults.

We know that tobacco and alcohol kill thousands each and every year but what about anabolic steroids? Since the history of their inception, there has never been one recorded death linked to anabolic steroids; there has been suspicion but never any proof. If anabolic steroids were as dangerous to adults as reported, shouldn't there be at least one death linked to their use, that would make sense, right? Further, if anabolic steroids are so dangerous shouldn't they claim more lives than NSAID painkillers that claim over 16,000 lives a year?

The truth is simple; despite the anti-argument it has been medically proven time and time again that the use of anabolic steroids is safe when supplemented by healthy adult men. Studies such as those done by the New England Journal of Medicine lend to this fact; further, even the testimony of the American Medical Association during the hearing that led to the Steroid Control Act of 1990, lent to this end. Of course, then we have the issue of liberty; if liberty is something we truly hold to there is no reason for adults to be denied anabolic steroids if they so desire unless the use of this liberty infringes on another's right to the same; this is obviously not the case. In the end, the bottom line is clear to see; steroids and teenagers should never clasp hands, but this should not affect the issue of anabolic steroids and adults who live by the very essence of freedom.