On the eve of the annual Easter rugby festivals, which kick off this week, the SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport (SAIDS) has warned schools that it will be testing players for anabolic steroids.
Tests conducted in South African high schools indicate that 10% of high school boys are using steroids. Steroid use is very much a part of school sports in South Africa.
Keep your eyes and ears open
When parents get together at their teens’ games, they talk. Having kids on the same team tends to create an instant bond between parents. If your teen’s teammates are taking “supplements”, you will hear about it. There will be a mom or two asking questions, or a nod and a wink between teammates that should make you cautious. Keep your eyes and ears open when socialising with other parents during your teen’s sport season to find out if there's any steroid use.
Anabolic steroids are prescribed by doctors for certain conditions, but they are never used on healthy teen athletes for any reason. Steroid use by children is dangerous on so many levels. So, if your teen, their teammates, or their high school coach is trying to tell you that it is okay for your teen to be taking steroids to enhance strength building, red flags should be going up. Here’s why:
What are the side effects of anabolic steroids?
Mood swings, aggression, also known as “roid rage” will be apparent. Many of the short-term side-effects are cosmetic, and include: severe acne, excessive body and facial hair, shrinking of the testicles and reduced sperm count, abnormal breast development, as well as baldness.
The long term side-effects could be potentially life-threatening. Steroids act to increase blood pressure, which can lead to strokes. They also reduce the production of cholesterol, leading to the furring of the blood vessels as well as coronary heart disease, increasing the possibility of a heart attack. These effects can occur within just a few weeks of taking steroids.
Male infertility is also linked to steroids. But, it is the liver that is particularly vulnerable. Increased liver function caused by steroids could cause inflammation and in some cases, hepatitis.
What do steroids look like?
It turns out that anabolic steroids are pretty easy to get hold of. The main source of steroids for schoolboys is reported to be from gyms. Steroids are available in tablet, liquid, gel and cream form. The appearance of these products varies depending on the type and manufacturers. Users typically ingest steroids orally, inject them intramuscularly, or rub them on the skin. They are also known as "Gym Candy", "Juice, Pumpers", "Stackers", "Weight Trainers" and "Arnolds".
Is using steroids illegal?
Anabolic steroids are basically synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone, and work by increasing muscle tissue. Yes, it is illegal to use steroids without a valid prescription. Steroids are Schedule III substances under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule III drugs which have a legitimate medical function, may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.
Those taking steroids are playing Russian roulette with their health. Excelling in sports is achieved by millions of athletes without relying on steroids. To really bulk up, all you need is to have a disciplined exercise routine, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep. Steroids should NOT be used by teenagers.
The information on Fedhealth Medical Aid is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.
Sources: parentingteens.about.com; www.pamf.org; www.citypress.co.za; taylorhooton.org; www.justice.gov; www.kidsgrowth.com; www.webmd.com; www.saschoolsports.co.za