The use of steroids and other appearance- and performance-enhancing drugs is on the rise among American youth, and their use is not limited to athletes.
In fact the fastest growing group of anabolic steroid users is high school freshman girls, said Clint Faught with theTaylor Hooton FoundationÂ - a nonprofit group dedicated to educating students about the dangers of steroids.
Faught was in Abilene Tuesday speaking to a group of student athletes, coaches and athletic administrators at McMurry University. His trip is sponsored by the American Southwest Conference.
One study Faught referenced found that more than 1 in 20 high school girls had used steroids at some point, and the numbers were going up.
It is estimated that more than 1 million high school students have admitted to using steroids, which Faught said is just the tip of the iceberg.
“When I played baseball in college, I knew a lot of guys that were juicing. But, you ask a room full of ball players who’s juicing, and see how many hands go up,” he said.
Students aren’t turning to the steroids just to get bigger, stronger or faster on the playing field.
More than 65 percent of steroid users interviewed in one study said they took the drugs to improve their physical appearance. More than 49 percent said they did it to feel better about themselves.
“Body image, especially among young women, is the leading cause of steroid use,” Faught said. “They do it to slim down or add lean muscle, to get into ‘bikini shape.’ Guys, too, are turning to steroids to get that six-pack ab look, just to look good on the beach.”
Popular culture and the media is partly to blame, Faught said, as TV shows like MTV’s “Jersey Shore” seem to glamorize the oiled and muscled “celebrities” who may or may not have come by their muscles naturally.
Advertisements that put a positive spin on steroids - “It’s grass seed on steroids,” read one Faught displayed - help minimize the dangerous nature of the drugs, he said.
But the drugs being ingested by athletes are often toxic, and they carry great health risks even if they’re pure.
Most anabolic steroids - synthetic testosterone - come in powdered form from China. They’re regularly found to be tainted with mercury and arsenic, and other foreign objects like metal wire or wood.
When the powder arrives in the U.S., it has to be mixed with something to make it injectable. The mixing may take place in a less-than-sterile bathroom or kitchen, and the fluid chosen ranges from baby oil to motor oil to horse urine.
Even if one of the more than 100 types of pharmaceutical-grade drugs is obtained, steroid use leads to heart and kidney defects, and can have some gender-bending side effects.
“In women, they can grow body hair and beards, and they lose their breasts. Their voice deepens,” Faught said. “With men, they can grow breasts, they can experience testicular atrophy and run the risk of being sterile.”
“Anyone who takes these drugs is basically turning themselves into a guinea pig,” Faught said.
The manufacturers of the drugs - which are illegal in the U.S., and are banned by all organized sporting agencies - are often two steps ahead of the people developing the tests.
“To me, testing is a joke. It’s like speed limit signs. Sure, they’re good, and yeah, some people get speeding tickets, but there’s no way they catch everyone,” Faught said.
Steve Greenwood and Jesse Pollard are both pitchers for McMurry’s baseball team, and both are healing from “Tommy John” elbow ligament replacement surgery.
They both said they had never taken steroids, but the pressure to gain size and strength starts in middle school, and continues through high school and college.
“Your dream is to get drafted, and a lot of guys will do whatever it takes to reach that goal. If doing steroids can add three or four mph to your fastball, it’s very tempting,” said Greenwood, a senior from Katy.
Greenwood said Faught’s presentation about the health effects of steroid use was both “scary, and educational.” One of Faught’s PowerPoint slides showed two human hearts - one from a steroid user and one normal.
“Seeing those two hearts just kind of hit me. To think that my friends could be dead in a year or two, if they did this stuff, it really gets your attention,” he said.anabolic steroids > deterrence > education > health food store > steroids > supplements