Professional athletes and Olympians aren’t the only ones juicing up. Performance-enhancing drug abuse by teenagers is an area that is often overlooked. Junior high and high school athletes often feel intense pressure to perform well from the stresses of trying to obtain athletic scholarships, coach, parental and peer pressure, and unhealthy body images. As junior high and high school has become more and more competitive, the demands of scholastic and athletic success can lead teens to look to drugs to gain a competitive edge, as mentioned earlier this week in regards to stimulants. Sometimes teens look to performance enhancing drugs such as Creatine, Anabolic Steroids, and Steroid Precursors such as DHEA. Creatine is an over-the-counter supplement used to increase muscle mass and strength. Side effects include muscle cramps, nausea, and high doses can severely damage the kidneys. Anabolic steroids are synthetic testosterone that can increase strength and muscle mass, but also can halt bone growth resulting in a short stature for still-growing adolescents. Most steroid precursors are illegal without a prescription, but DHEA can still be bought in over-the-counter supplements, says the Mayo Health Clinic. Side effects are similar to those of steroids. Dependence on these substances can have devastating effects. Signs of performance-enhancing drug abuse in your son may include increased acne and male pattern baldness. Girls who take these drugs may develop a deeper voice and dark facial hair. Teens abusing these drugs may have increased moodiness or fits of “’roid rage”.
Since this is an area often left out of the discussion about the dangers of drug use and few people suspect teens of such abuse, increased discussion is imperative. Talk to your teen about the dangers of performance-enhancing drug abuse, and encourage an ethical attitude and the importance of fair play. Set rules, such as taking away their sports privileges if drugs are taken, and make sure they understand the dangers and consequences of drug abuse. Monitor your teen’s purchases, checking for potentially harmful ingredients, and make sure your child’s coach knows that performance-enhancing drug abuse will not be tolerated. Communication with your teen is essential- even if they act like they know everything. Let them know you support them regardless of their athletic ability. Teens often perceive pressure from parents and coaches and put undue amounts of pressure on themselves. Check in with your teen about the demands of their schedule. If it seems to be too much, work with them to make life more manageable. Athletics can be a fulfilling part of high school life, but if they are negatively affecting other parts of your teen’s life, it may be time to reassess their importance. Having your child playing for the [insert favorite college team here] may be great, but not if it kills them in the process. If you do suspect that your teen is abusing performance-enhancing drugs, don’t hesitate to contact us. Performance-enhancing drug abuse is a serious issue with serious consequences. Regardless of the substance, teen drug abuse deserves serious attention, and we are here to help.
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