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Anabolic Steroids: Is My Teen Using Anabolic Steroids?

How Parents Can Know

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Updated April 09, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Anabolic steroids are synthetic substances similar to the male sex hormone testosterone. Anabolic steroids are use to help people with certain kinds of anemia and men who don't produce enough testosterone on their own. This type of drug needs to be prescribed by a doctor.

Teen athletes who want to build muscle will sometimes use anabolic steroids illegally - without a prescription. Below are some ways parents can figure out if their teen is illegally using anabolic steroids.

Check out the Is My Teen Using Drugs? article first.

Is My Teen Using Drugs? goes over all of the common issues dealing with all types of drug use while in the tips below I am listing specifics to the problems of using anabolic steroids and signs a parent should look out for if they feel their teen may be exposed to this illegal drug. If you have not read the article you may want to check it out now.

Know that anabolic steroids are never prescribed to healthy teens.

Steroid Pills Teen Drug Use
Jasper White / Getty Images
Anabolic steroids are used by doctors for certain conditions but they are never used on healthy teen athletes for any reason. So if your teen, their teammate or their high school coach is trying to tell you that it is okay for your teen to be taking steroids to enhance his strength building, they are either lying to you or they are misinformed. Either way, your teen taking that drug is against the law. Put a stop to it.

What do anabolic steroids look like? How do teens use them?

Vial Anabolic Steroids Teen Drug Use
DEA

Anabolic steroids can come in pills or as liquid in vials which is injected with a needle. As there are different manufacturers, the pills come in different colors and shapes. Because teens who abuse Anabolic steroids are not doing so under a doctor's care, they have been known to take doses 10 to 100 times higher than the amount prescribed for medical reasons.

Athletes will cycle anabolic steroids in order to get the most out of the drug with the least side effects. Cycling involves taking multiple doses of steroids over a specific period of time, stopping for a period and starting again. In addition, users frequently combine several different types of steroids to maximize their effectiveness while minimizing negative effects, a process known as stacking.

What are the side effects of anabolic steroids?

Mood swings and attitude changes come with use of anabolic steroids. Your teen will become obsessed with building muscle and their enhancing athletic ability. There will be these physical side effects:
  • severe acne,
  • excessive body and facial hair,
  • deepened voice,
  • permanent enlargement of the clitoris and disruption of the menstrual cycle or
  • shrinking of the testicles and reduced sperm count,
  • and permanent infertility.
While you may not be privy to some of these side effects, knowing about a few of them combined with your teen building muscle should prompt you to ask your teen pointed questions about anabolic steroids use.

Are teens on your teen's team using anabolic steroids?

anabolic steroids use teens high school sports
Laura Groesbeck / Getty Images
When parents get together in the stands of their teens' games, they talk. Normally you've known the other parents for a long time as kids who play high school sports start at a young age and you've sat with these people many times before. But even if you are a new set of parents, the fact that you both have players on the same team tends to make you immediate acquaintances, if not friends. If your teen's teammates are taking 'supplements', you will hear about it. There will be a mom asking questions to other parents or a nod and a wink between teammates that will send up a red flag to you. Keeping your eyes and ears open when being social with other parents during your teen's sport season is a great way to find out if steroid use is happening.

Anabolic steroids drug paraphernalia in their room or in personal belongings.

Anabolic Steroid Needle Drug Use
Denise D. Witmer

If you find needles, vials or pill packs in your teen's trash or hidden away in their room, you can be sure they are taking something. If you find the pills themselves you can call and ask a pharmacy or talk to your teen's doctor if you teen is unwilling to tell you what they are.

To hide the items when they throw them away, teens will place the needles, vials or empty pill packs in paper bags or a crumpled pieces of paper. If you suspect your teen is using anabolic steroids, you will want to continually check for these.

Other signs your teen may be using anabolic steroids.

Anabolic steroid use in teens my trigger aggressive behavior where the teen will start fights and has so much rage that they have outbursts referred to in the media as "roid rages". Depression, which can lead to teen suicide, is often seen when the anabolic steroids are stopped and may contribute to the continued use of anabolic steroids. Researchers also report that users may suffer from paranoia, jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility.

You should take your teen to a doctor if you want them to get tested.

While there are at-home drug test kits available for steroid use, they are expensive and have to be sent to a lab to get your results. If you have your teen tested at their doctor's office, you will have help if the test comes back positive as the side effects for stopping the drug can be very harmful and your teen will need a doctor's help.

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