July 30, 2014
What Are We Supposed To Do About More Teenagers Taking HGH?
by: Bob Cook When the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids released a report in July noting a spike in the percentage of teens reporting use of human growth hormone — even as drug use in many other categories (particularly alcohol) was going down — the organization made clear that the issue was not merely about sports performance alone. In noting the reported HGH at-least-once-in-their-lifetime usage rate increased to 11 percent of teens in 2013 from only 5 percent in 2012, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids noted: [F]rom our data, there is no statistically significant difference in the athletic involvement between synthetic [HGH] users and non-users. This suggests that the increase in reported synthetic [HGH] use may be for reasons including, but not limited to, athletics, such as improving physical appearance.” The reported steroid usage rate went up, too — to 7 percent in 2013 at least once in a lifetime, up from 5 percent in 2012. Steroids have been a thorny issue for school sports to solve, with few states testing because of the high expense ($200 a test is lot for districts already struggling with their finances), and those that are finding very few positives (which supporters might note as success, in terms of athletes perhaps not taking steroids because of testing). But HGH is an even tougher nut to crack. First, HGH requires a blood test, rather than urinalysis, which increase the expense and invasiveness. Second, if it’s not just athletes, then who do you test? Is it worth the expense for a school to test everybody at random? And, third, how do you fight HGH use when it’s so widely accepted in so many other facets of life — like Hollywood? (And when other performance-enhancing drugs are prevalent and/or winked at in many other walks of life — such as the use of beta blockers by classical musicians to fight stage fright.) HGH use, practically speaking, is not the sort of issue testing will solve. So far, the only way to catch high school athletes is have them get swept up in a larger investigation on illegal drug distribution. Instead, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has suggested a few other ways to start spreading the message about HGH. One thing is to get parents actually talking to their children about them, and actually considering the possibility their children might be using them (especially if they suddenly develop a ripped torso). From the report:
More than half of parents (58 percent) report having discussed the use of steroids or other performance-enhancing substances with their teens, and only 3 percent of parents believe their teen has ever used steroids or other performance-enhancing substances. The new … data highlights a disconnect between parents and teens as only 12 percent of teens indicate that the last conversation they had with their parents about the risks of drug use included talking about synthetic [HGH], and this measure has remained stable over the past five years.The difficulty from parents, I suspect, has much to do with their never having confronted HGH use when they were kids. They can talk to their kids knowledgeably (some more knowledgeably than others, if you catch my drift) about alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, etc., and their effects, but not so much about HGH. Another recommendation from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is going to be a bit more controversial, because it’s a call for more regulation of supplements, which are basically not regulated at all. The use of HGH includes not only the real thing, but synthetic versions that may or may not be sold in stores and may or may not be safe. Again, from the report:
A picture emerges of teens — both boys and girls — entering a largely unregulated marketplace (online and in-store) in which performance-enhancing substances of many varieties are aggressively promoted with promises of improved muscle mass, performance and appearance. This is an area of apparently growing interest and potential danger to teens that cries out for stricter controls on manufacture and marketing.The partnership doesn’t go quite as far as some academics, who have argued thatperformance-enhancing drug use is as old as competition, and that everyone is better off if everything were legal, available and managed by a physician or health professional. After all, the organization is not thrilled about the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington; in the report it says legalization of drugs eliminates one of the factors that keeps children from trying them. Still, with some regulation, there at least is someone checking out what is in the bottle of pills these teens (and some of the rest of us) are ingesting. Talking and clearly labeled bottles are going to stop a lot of teenagers from getting muscles in a pill — but at least it’s a start. http://www.forbes.com/sites/bobcook/2014/07/30/what-are-we-supposed-to-do-about-more-teenagers-taking-hgh/