You’ve heard the rumors. Plenty of people around town are saying that members of your son’s football team are using steroids.
You hope it’s not true. You hope even harder that it doesn’t involve your child. The question, however, is would you even know it if he was abusing steroids?
If you suspect your teen may be using steroids, be on alert for the warning signs below.
When an adolescent uses steroids, they disrupt the normal hormone production in the body, causing changes in internal functions and outward appearance. This disturbance is especially noticeable in teens, whose bodies are still developing. Look for these changes in your child:
- Increased acne
- Oily hair and skin
- Increased muscle mass
- Puffiness and swelling of the neck
- Stunted growth (steroids can signal the bones to stop growing prematurely)
- Development of breast tissue in males
- Deepening of the voice in females
- Excessive body hair in females
Medical Warning Signs
As the steroids interfere with the body’s systems, teens may experience more serious effects on their health. The following medical complaints could be caused by steroid use:
- Increased blood pressure
- Stomach ulcers
- Heart palpitations
- Irritation of the digestive system
An imbalance in hormones can cause your teen’s mood to change. While this may be hard to distinguish from typical teen angst, parents can watch for drastic swings that indicate it's more than puberty affecting your child.
- Increased aggression and irritability
- Mood swings – from anger to depression
- Difficulty sleeping
In addition to the physical changes that accompany steroid use, your teen will likely display altered behaviors. New patterns may emerge, which serve as red flags for steroid abuse.
- Increased appetite
- Obsession with building muscle and athletic performance
- Change in social group
- Poor school performance
- Withdrawal from previous activities
- Asking for more money/allowance than is reasonable
While this one may seem obvious, teens won’t likely leave this lying around for you to find. Teens often hide needles, vials or empty pill packs in paper bags or pieces of paper. If you suspect your teen of steroid use, check for these in the trash or around their room. If you find pills that your teen refuses to identify, contact a pharmacy or your child’s doctor to determine what they are.
Preventing Steroid Use
- Based on research, simply learning about their harmful effects does not convince teens to avoid steroids. What has proved more effective is presenting both the risks and benefits of steroid use. Teens find this approach more credible, and are more likely to be steered away by the negative effects.
- The ATLAS program (Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids) has also seen positive results. This involves educating athletes about the harmful effects of steroids and providing alternatives to steroid use, including nutrition and weight training. Teens also discuss how to refuse drug offers.
- Other programs have found that allowing fellow teens to teach their peers about steroid effects is helpful. Coming from other adolescents, the information and warnings seem to carry more weight.
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