Uh-Oh! Teen Use of Performance-Enhancing Substances Doubles

When we think of steroids, chances are men with big, bulky muscles come to mind. Or even famous athletes, who have been caught in 'roid rage scandals. But teenagers? They may not seem like typical offenders, but surprisingly human growth hormone (or hGH) usage has recently more than doubled among teens.

Shutterstock Shutterstock

Washington Post reports that teen use of synthetic human growth hormone increased by 120 percent from 2012-2013. The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study sampled over 3,700 teens in 9th through 12th grade, and 750 of their parents. Out of those teens, 11 percent reported using hGH without a prescription. Interestingly, there wasn't a huge difference between genders. Twelve percent of teen boys reported using synthetic HGH, compared to 9 percent of girls.

When taken without a prescription, it may be used with the intention of improving athletic performance, having a steroid-like effect. In fact, there's a strong connection between hGH and steroid use. According to the survey, one in five teens had at least one friend who used steroids. That same 20% believe it's "easy" to obtain steroids.

These findings are troubling, according to Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. He writes,  "Young people are seeking out and using performance-enhancing substances...  hoping to improve athletic performance or body appearance without really knowing what substances they are putting into their bodies."

While they think it helps they're performance, it's extremely risky. Pasierb explains,

These are not products that assure safety and efficacy. Prescription and over-the-counter medicines must go through rigorous testing to be proven safe before being sold to the public, but supplement products appear on store shelves without regulation from the Food and Drug Administration and must actually be proven unsafe before being removed from sale.

This is an important message to convey to your teens, especially since the survey says only 12 percent said their parents have talked to them about the dangers of synthetic hGH. Trying to succeed at sports is definitely not worth the health risks! It's best to train the right way, with exercise routines and healthy eating.


Looking for more healthy ways to inspire your teens to get active? Subscribe to Choices, and check out past fitness articles including “The Magical 7-Minute Workout” and “Make Your Move.”