Steroid Abuse in High School and College Athletes
Steroids are organic compounds that are used for the treatment of certain medical conditions such as asthma, allergies, myositis, systemic vasculitis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus and Sjogren’s syndrome. These compounds are beneficial in arresting inflammation that threatens to damage critical body organs. Unfortunately, the existence of the substance has led to the rise of a troubling issue: steroid abuse.
Steroid abuse in sports has become a common issue, with the use of anabolic steroids linked to athletes. Regardless of age or level of skill, some athletes have become typecast to engage in steroid abuse. That would be an unfair assumption, considering that many of them have the same thing in mind: to become number one in their respective fields of sport.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs is not something new. In fact, it was during 1700 B.C. when ancient Greek athletes would consume bull and sheep testicles as their source of additional strength to be able to win any competition. The process of making steroids today may be different from the past, but they serve the same purpose: to increase muscle mass and strength.
Illicit drug use has always been a major problem. It doesn’t just scare parents when their kids go to parties and music festivals, but it has become a troubling issue in schools as well.
Some high schools in the U.S. have now implemented drug testing policies because of the increasing number of high school students getting involved with different kinds of drugs. On top of this, drug testing has also become a requirement for school athletes to undergo prior to taking part in any game or sport.
According to a survey released in 2014, the use of anabolic steroids among high school students have tremendously increased, from 5 to 11%.
Some other facts about steroid use include the following:
- African-American and Hispanic teens are more likely to use anabolic steroids. (15% African-American teens, 13% Hispanic Teens and 9% Asian teens)
- 1 in 5 teens report that at least one friend uses steroids.
- 3-12% adolescent males admitted using anabolic steroids at some time in their lives.
The NCAA and U.S. schools are facing a huge problem in dealing with young athletes who have tested positive for drugs. Drug use has gone up at such an alarming rate that the need to update school policies with regards to performance enhancing drugs and recreational drug use in college has become of utmost importance.
Drew Johnsons, a freshman from Thomas University, shared that 13 of his baseball teammates were using drugs, and that these athletes were the “stars” of the team. It is clear that with the use of steroids, these athletes were given more time to play in the field than the others who did not use steroids.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse released a report on the prevalence of steroid use among the high school students. The report indicated that there are more 12th graders using steroids compared to other high school levels.
Why Do Students Abuse Steroids?
High school athletes may face such an overwhelming pressure because they not only want to please their coaches, school, teammates and parents, but they also see excellence in their fields of sport as a ticket to become successful when they reach college.
Social media may have also contributed to this apparent need, the need to become popular online may influence student athletes to try anything just to become better.
A very tempting college scholarship is another thing that high school athletes have in mind. It’s fairly common knowledge that a good athletic performance can provide them with more choices in terms of getting into any college that they want.
Other factors that influence a high school athlete to take on steroids are as follows:
To become the star jock
High school life is the stage when most teens want to be seen as the “best among the rest”. The thought that they will be worshiped by schoolmates may make school athletes proud. In order to maintain that status, an athlete must always perform well in their sport.
Unfortunately, not all athletes play fair and square. As a result, some of them consider taking steroids as their shortcut to success so that they can perform better and draw in more followers.
To project a pleasing body image
Some teens may have a natural skinny physique, and that doesn’t bode well for athletes who want to have perfect-looking bodies. Keeping a strict workout plan may not be all too convenient. Because of this, some athletes take steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs to help them achieve the body that they want.
To follow their sports idols
You probably couldn’t blame teen athletes for not getting away from drug use because of the strong influence of social media, particularly by popular professional athletes. For instance, Lance Armstrong gained so many followers because of his six-peat victory at the Tour de France. He later admitted to using performance-enhancing methods.
The bad news is that teenagers may misconstrue everything that their sports idols are doing as positive. Knowing how Armstrong was able to get away with steroid use for so many years, some student athletes may think that it is alright to use performance enhancers until they are caught.
Dangers of Steroid Use
Anabolic steroids – or also known under the street name “roids” – may be used to induce puberty and to help those who may be suffering certain medical conditions. Unfortunately, steroids may be abused to the point of risking one’s health.
Most people who abuse steroids usually include bodybuilders who want to increase muscle mass, athletes who want to improve their performance, and people who want to recover from injuries.
Let’s get one thing clear: steroids are addictive. Seeing the results after taking a few doses may convince a person to continue taking more than the last time. Although it does not produce any euphoric effects like other drugs do, steroid abuse may lead to addiction. This is because a person who engages in steroid abuse would want to maintain the kind of body that they get from using the substance. Some people even fear that failure to take steroids may lead them to return to the way they used to be.
Anabolic steroids use may cause the following:
- Decreased sperm count
- Decreased appetite
- Mood swings
Those who take large doses of steroids may exhibit alarming signs and symptoms such as:
- Growth of breast tissue in men
- Excessive facial hair growth in women
- Deepening of voice in women
- Shrinking of testicles
- Enlarged clitoris
- Heart problems
- Menstrual irregularities
- Rapid mood swings
Prolonged use of steroids may affect mood and behavior of an individual. This can lead to any of the following effects:
- Blood borne diseases
- Heart Attack
- Kidney failure
- Liver cancer
Detection and Testing of Steroid Use
Anabolic steroids are currently categorized under Schedule II controlled substances under U.S. Law. Despite it being a controlled substance, a lot of people – most especially athletes – still have access to the substance.
Several tests may be administered to determine if an athlete is taking anabolic steroids. These tests are quite expensive compared to ordinary drug testing kits.
The most common method of testing is detecting the level of testosterone. The epitestosterone level exceeding the ratio of 5:1 against the testosterone level would produce a positive test result. This, however, may not be as conclusive as some athletes can find ways on how to cheat on this type of test. As a result, tests are more specific these days.
Taking oral steroids is very convenient. They act rapidly in the system, much faster than injectable steroids. The following are types of steroids and their average detection time:
Injectable steroids provide much better results compared to oral steroids despite having a much faster effect. Find below some of the most commonly used injectable steroids and their respective detection time.
|Steroid||Hormone & Ester||Detection Time|
|Deca-Durabolin||Nandrolone- Decanoate||18 months|
|Sustanon-250||4 Ester Testosterone Mixture||2-4 months|
|Testosterone Propionate||Testosterone Propionate||3 weeks|
|Testosterone Suspension||Testosterone (No Ester)||1-2 days|
Athletes who need to undergo drug testing may find ways to avoid having a positive result. By knowing the detection time of the steroid that they use, they will try to stay away from taking steroids so that they can pass the test. In some cases, athletes would take lower doses of steroids, to help them have a boost in strength and performance while at the same time decreasing the chances of testing positive for the substance.
As quick as drug manufacturers are in making steroids, some of them develop similar products that can beat steroid drug tests. Performance-enhancing drugs that are non-steroidal in nature are now available in the market – they produce the same effect as steroids but are undetectable by any type of test.
What can school officials do to prevent steroid abuse?
Schools should be able to come up with strict programs that will help students understand the dangers of steroid abuse and the consequences that they will suffer in case of discovery. By emphasizing the factors that could affect their life when using steroids, students are expected to somehow think twice in wanting to engage in steroid abuse.
High school students are naturally active especially in sports. By informing them how much steroid abuse can affect their playing privileges, student athletes may get discouraged into using steroids.
Students may see that the effect of steroids may seem positive because of how it can improve body image as well as increase an individual’s strength and endurance. However, these young athletes need to realize that prolonged use can result to an irreversible condition such as liver and kidney damage and even death.
Schools should encourage the students to become more active without fear of becoming a poor performer. Engaging in worthwhile activities that involve the community can be very beneficial not only to the students but to the whole locality.
Today is the right time to cut the connection between steroids and sports so that the young generation may be able to live normal lives and become good citizens of their respective communities.