Steroid Use in High School Students
The problems associated with the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs – notably steroids – in professional and amateur sports are threatening to damage the reputation of players, teams, leagues, and those officials whose duty it is to present honest athletic competition to the public. The evidence is very clear, when it comes to the negative affects that steroids have on the human body, but that hasn’t stopped athletes from using steroids to gain a competitive edge. But the most shocking aspect of the steroid issue is the growing evidence of usage by high school students. Schools and parents need to find solutions to this problem, before athletes become addicted to these substances and ruin their health – and the image of sports – as a result.
What are steroids?
They are chemicals that mimic human testosterone
They help muscles become stronger and enhance athleticism
B. What are the negative effects of steroids?
They harm the body, cause life-threatening conditions
C. Who is using steroids?
1. Professional as well as amateur athletes use steroids
2. Amateur athletes in high school hope to perform at a level that will result in a scholarship to a big university
D. What can be done?
1. Parents, coaches and teachers in high school must be aware of the signs that a student athlete is using steroids, and must institute strong sanctions against the use of steroids
2. Pro-leagues must find ways to detect the use of steroids, and ban those players who are tested and are proved to be using steroids
INTRODUCTION: What are anabolic-androgenic steroids? According to the Nemours Foundation, a respected source of health information available from a link on the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Web site, anabolic steroids are synthetic hormones, which “…can boost the body’s ability to produce muscle and prevent muscle breakdown.” Anabolic steroids resemble the chemical structure of testosterone, the natural sex hormone that is found in the body of males.
So when anabolic steroids are taken, they greatly increase the amount of testosterone in the blood supply of the user, and “stimulate muscle tissue” in the body of the user to grow “larger and stronger,” according to KidsHealth (presented by the Nemours Foundation), which is a primary source of information, and offers qualitative information.
What are the side effects of anabolic steroids? The National Institute on Drug Abuse, a primary source of information – a division of the National Institutes of Health – explains (in qualitative form) the major side effects that these types of steroids can produce. For example, abuse of anabolic steroids can result in tumors in the liver, cancer, jaundice, high blood pressure, “increases in LDL (bad cholesterol) and decreases in HDL (good cholesterol). In addition, abuse of anabolic steroids can result in “severe acne” and for men it may cause the shrinking of testicles, a lowering of sperm count, “baldness, infertility, development of breasts,” and an increased risk of prostate cancer.
The data from the National Institute of Drug Abuse also shows (quantitatively) that there are psychiatric side effects from steroid use, such as “aggression,” mood swings, depression (especially when the user stops taking steroids), paranoia, “extreme irritability, delusions and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.” Another problem associated with use of steroids, the NIDA explains, is that some users may turn to other drugs to relieve the pain or psychological disruption of their lives caused by the steroids themselves. A quantitative research report from NIDA reflects that of 227 people being treated in a private treatment center for heroin dependency, 9.3% admitted to previous abuse of steroids (before trying any other drugs).
Who is using anabolic steroids? The use of performance-enhancing steroid drugs in amateur and professional sports has been well publicized in the media over the past few years, and fans of pro-sports have become cynical and discouraged as a result. For example, if your favorite player growing up was Hank Aaron, and you had to go through a summer in 2007 during which Barry Bonds broke that most cherished of all baseball records, the home run record, anger and cynicism was probably expressed. But professional athletes aren’t the only individuals who are using anabolic steroids.
THE RESEARCH: Sadly, statistics published in the journal NEA Today (National Education Association) (Kopkowski, 2007) indicate that in 2006, “…nearly 850,000 high school students admitted to using the drugs” (according to a quantitative data culled from the Center for Disease Controls). This article is a secondary source. The author says that steroid use among high school students “has doubled since the early 1990s” due in part to the fact that “pressure on high school athletes is escalating.” Why is there more pressure on high school athletes? Coaches, parents, school officials, alumni – and students themselves – are “hungry for attention-grabbing game stats, championships, and scholarships.”
It is true that many high school students are in hopes of being recruited by high-visibility universities. And those athletes are attempting to put on a great exhibition of athleticism while in high school so they may get a scholarship to a big university, and from there be eligible to be drafted by professional sports (the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball or the National Hockey League). Recently there was an arrest of six high school boys in Connecticut who were found to be taking steroids, and nine players on a high school football team in Texas were also busted when officials learned they had been taking steroids.
How can high schools learn to identify the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs? The NEA article (a secondary source) suggests that first of all, counselors, teachers, parents and coaches need to be alerted to the signs that a player is involved with steroids. “Rapid bulking up,” dramatic mood swings, sudden rage at even the smallest setbacks, pounding on a desk or falling asleep in class – these are all signs that a student athlete could be using steroids. The additional problem, though, when it comes to identifying steroid usage, is that many of the signs of steroid usage are quite similar to things that can be expected around teenagers anyway.
To wit: mood swings, heavy acne, physical changes, and “sudden, unexplained aggressive behavior” are traits that are also associated with teenagers as they become mature and experience fairly high levels of testosterone swirling through their bodies. The use of steroids in high school athletes has prompted several states – Virginia, New Jersey, California, Illinois, and Texas – to pass legislation that punishes those abusers with periods of athletic ineligibility.
Some of the nicknames for steroids include “roids, juice, hype, pump,” according to Kopkowski’s article. Steroids can be taken by injection, by pills or liquids, and the side effects, in addition to what was mentioned previously in this paper, include: “…nausea and vomiting, headaches, aching joints, muscle cramps…diarrhea…anxiety and panic attacks…”
The KidsHealth article goes on to mention that when steroids are taken for an extended period of time can stunt a teen’s growth, cause the “abnormal enlargement of the heart muscles,” cause “blood lipid abnormalities that contribute to heart disease” and “irreversible stretch marks.” For females who use steroids, they may encounter fertility problems; their menstrual cycles may become irregular and there may be a disruption of the “maturation and release of eggs from the ovaries.”
What do fans think about the use of drugs, steroids in specifics, by pro-ballplayers? There is an article in the Economist (secondary source), qualitative in substance that claims fans have “…an ambivalent attitude toward drugs” because the use of illegal drugs is so prevalent and it seems there is no way out of this problem. When it comes to Bonds breaking Aaron’s record, as mentioned earlier, fans are exhibiting an “OJ-style racial divide, with whites more willing to believe the circumstantial evidence against Mr. Bonds than his fellow African-Americans.”
Recently, it has come to the attention of the media and others that the drug called, “human growth hormone” (HGH) is being used by some major league baseball players. An article in USA Today (Nightengale, 2007) points out through secondary reporting of data that Rick Ankiel (St. Louis Cardinals), Jay Gibbons (Baltimore Orioles) and Troy Glaus (Blue Jays) have been implicated in the use of HGH. This information was made available because an investigation of a Florida pharmacy by the federal government (reported by Sports Illustrated and the New York Daily News) turned up receipts detailing transactions between those players and the pharmacy.
According to the article, a quantitative piece, by taking HGH (another performance-enhancing substance) players may be able to “avert positive steroid tests.” How can they do that? “Taking HGH enables you to take lower doses of anabolic steroids,” journalist Bob Nightengale quotes Gary Wadler (with the World Anti-Doping Agency) as saying. “By taking a lower level of steroids, you may not be detected when undergoing drug tests,” Wadler continues. But that opinion has been rebutted by Major league Baseball’s head labor lawyer, Rob Manfred, who says even an “extraordinarily low level” of steroids present in a player’s tissues can be detected.
The pressure on professional athletes as well as high school and college athletes is tremendous. There is an enormous amount of money to be made in pro-sports, with some baseball players making upwards of $10 million a year, and others hoping to achieve that level of compensation. In high school, the pressure is great because parents, coaches and the community are eager to see the teams win, and moreover, high school players are anxious to perform at a high level because success means a scholarship to a high-profile university. The problem is not going to go away, so it is up to responsible leaders at all levels of government and sports to do all they can to curtail this illegal menace, and save the health of young people at the same time.
Dowshen, Steven. (2007). Steroids. KidsHealth. Retrieved September 14, 2007, at http://kidshealth.org.
Economist. (2007). Curb your enthusiasm. 384(8541), p. 28.
Kopkowski, Cynthia. (2007). Home Field Disadvantages. NEA Today, 25(6), p. 23.
National Institute of Drug Addiction. (2007). NIDA InfoFacts: Steroids (Anabolic-Androgenic)
Retrieved September 14, 2007, at http://www.nida.nih.gov/infofacts/steroids.html.
Nightengale, Bob. (2007). Is HGH hiding steroid use? USA Today. Sports, p. 01c.
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