I Think My Athlete Son is Using Steroids: Is it Really That Bad?

Yes, it’s really that bad.

For the sake of clarity, we’ll define exactly what we’re talking about when we say using steroids. In this context, what we mean is teenage boys using anabolic steroids to improve athletic performance. Anabolic steroids are synthetic, laboratory-made versions of the naturally occurring hormone testosterone, which is produced and secreted by the gonads and adrenal glands in men, and the adrenal glands in women. Doctors prescribe anabolic steroids for medical conditions such as low testosterone in adult males, delayed onset of puberty in pre-adolescent males, and diseases that result in muscle loss or impaired muscle generation or repair in both males and females.

Anabolic steroids have been used for decades by professional athletes – bodybuilders, weightlifters, and football players in particular – but gained widespread notoriety in the 1990s and 2000s, when Major League Baseball players suddenly bulked up and started hitting home runs at an alarming rate. In the span of four years, not one, not two, but three players – all of whom were later either found guilty of or admitted to using anabolic steroids – broke Roger Maris’ single season home run record of 61, which had stood untouched since 1961. During the same period, one of these same players also broke Hank Aaron’s career home run record of 755.

Athletes use anabolic steroids to build muscle mass, which increases strength and thereby improves performance. They’re incredibly effective drugs, but they come with severe health risks, especially to developing teenagers. They’re also classified as Schedule III drugs by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), which makes their use illegal without a prescription.

Health Risks of Anabolic Steroids

Don’t let anyone tell you using steroids is not a serious issue. It’s a very serious issue. Don’t dismiss these drugs as harmless health supplements that only increase muscle mass. Get on top of the situation – meaning stop it if it’s going on – as soon as possible, because anabolic steroids cause both physical and emotional problems in teenage boys.

Health Risks of Anabolic Steroid Use (Physical)

Data from The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) indicates that the use of anabolic steroids can lead to:

  • Early heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Liver tumors
  • Kidney failure
  • Shrinking testicles
  • Decreased Sperm Count
  • Stunted growth
  • Baldness
  • Development of breast tissue
  • Headaches
  • HIV/AIDS (IV users only)
  • Hepatitis B and C (IV users only)

Health Risks of Anabolic Steroid Use (Emotional)

Data from The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) also indicates that the use of anabolic steroids can cause:

  • Mood swings
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Extreme Irritability
  • Delusions
  • Impaired Judgement

Legal Consequences of Anabolic Steroid Use

In addition to the physical and emotional consequences of using anabolic steroids for increased athletic performance,  California Law states that possession of these Schedule III drugs without a prescription comes with the following penalties:

  • Fines of up to $500 for first time offenses
  • Jail time of up to 1 year for first time offenses

Not only can your son cause permanent, irreversible damage to his body by using steroids, he can also cause permanent damage to his personal life by exposing himself to legal liability. Though possession of steroids without a prescription is a misdemeanor and first-time offenders can often enter treatment programs and avoid jail time, conviction leaves a criminal record which can affect his professional and academic aspirations.

What You Can Do

If you think your son is using steroids, there are a number of steps you can take. First, your job as a parent is to watch and listen.

Steroid Use: What to Watch For

  • Sudden increase in muscle mass
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of eyes
  • Unexplained headaches
  • Fluid retention in hands and feet
  • Extreme acne
  • Mood swings
  • Paranoia
  • Hyperactivity
  • Breast Growth

Steroid Use: What to Listen For

Teenage boys often acquire and plan steroid use with their friends and teammates. If you overhear any of the following phrases being discussed, it’s cause for concern:

  • Juice (slang for steroids)
  • Gym Candy (slang for steroids)
  • Roids (slang for steroids)
  • Pumpers (slang for steroids)
  • Stacking (term for method of use)
  • Pyramiding (term for method of use)
  • Cycling (term for method of use)

If you discover your son is using steroids, there are two things to do right away: take him to a doctor for a physical evaluation and take him to a psychiatrist for a mental/emotional evaluation. Follow their advice for the best methods to stop using steroids and correct any physical or emotional damage that’s occurred.

It’s Really That Bad

We hope we’ve conveyed the gravity of the steroid situation to you. We don’t mean to scare anyone, but it’s a big deal. We understand why teenage boys are drawn to steroid use: their allure is powerful because they work like magic. They can and do increase muscle mass and improve athletic performance. Your son may use them because he wants to make the football team, beef up his body to impress peers or romantic interests, or simply feel stronger and more powerful. However, the payoff is short-lived and the long-term consequences are far too great to even consider using steroids. This is a black and white issue. Don’t let it happen in your house. If you do find out it’s happening, enlist the help of physicians and stop it as soon as possible.