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Children's Health

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Experts: Steroid Abuse Spreading

Experts Say Nonathletic Teens Use Drugs to Look Better
WebMD Health News

July 13, 2004 -- Experts and athletes are warning that steroid use remains rampant among young people in the U.S. -- and not just those who want to be better athletes.

Doping experts and physicians tell lawmakers that more and more teens are turning to steroids and over-the-counter steroid "precursors" hoping that the drugs will make them look more shapely.

"I'll tell you right now, this stuff is now creeping down into our grade schools," says Terry Madden, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the group that tests Olympic and other international athletes for banned substances.

Up to 4% of U.S. teens have used steroids in the last year, according to the 2002 federal Monitoring the Future drug use survey. Most of those users are thought to be male athletes looking to add muscle mass, increase weight, or improve performance.

Not Just for Football

But Don H. Catlin, MD, of the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, says more and more teenage girls are taking steroids and precursors like androstenedione to improve their looks.

"They just want to be buff. They want to look better," he tells members of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control on Capitol Hill.

Anabolic steroids are available with a doctor's prescription. But when used in excess or over too long a time period, they can cause a variety of adverse health effects. Men can experience breast enlargement, shrunken testes and loss of function, and aggressive mood swings while on the drugs, while women can grow excess hair and experience a deepening voice, abnormal menstrual periods, and enlargement of the clitoris.

Athletes Get Easy Access

Meanwhile, athletes continue to use steroids in large numbers, despite the well-publicized negative health risks, lawmakers were told. One player for a major NCAA Division I football team says drug use is so widespread that many athletes resort to using them just to stay competitive.

Many college athletes will use steroids just to survive or to make an impact," says 'John Doe,' a player who testified behind a screen with his voice altered to avoid being identified. "They're extremely available. You don't have to look hard to find them."

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