Anabolic Steroid Use by Teens

Teens may feel pressure to use steroids, especially if they are very concerned about their appearance or athletic performance. Parents and other adults and friends should let teens know about the dangers of anabolic steroid use, and help teens to feel worthwhile without taking drugs.

Anabolic steroids are a type of performance enhancing drug, one that can increase muscle mass in teens. These types of steroids are sometimes prescribed by doctors for specific medical problems, but they are illegal without a prescription. Anabolic steroids are usually either injected or taken as pills, often in dangerously high doses. Also, illegal steroids are often manufactured in labs, which may not create clean, safe products. These steroids can stay in the body for up to a year.

Anabolic steroids are only one of the types of steroids available. Other steroids, like cortisol steroids, are commonly prescribed by doctors for other conditions and are available in pharmacies, but do not help build muscle and are not usually abused by teens.

Anabolic steroids are artificial hormones that mimic male sex hormones, such as testosterone. These hormones are naturally present in both males and females, though in much larger quantities in males, and cause some male sex characteristics, including increased muscle mass. Taking hormones without a doctor's supervision, especially during the teen years, can have permanent negative effects on teens:

  • Getting in trouble with the law, and/or getting kicked out of athletic programs
  • Infections from sharing needles to inject steroids, including deadly infections like HIV and hepatitis
  • Jaundice (turning yellow)
  • Retaining liquids or swelling
  • Oily skin and hair
  • Acne
  • Bad breath
  • Cysts
  • Stunted growth, meaning they will not grow as tall as they normally would
  • Shakiness, dizziness, or trembling
  • Sleep problems
  • Upset stomach
  • Increased risk of injury and joint pain
  • Higher risk for some cancers
  • Liver and kidney damage
  • Increased risk for early heart attack, even before they reach 30
  • Pain and paralysis if injected improperly
  • Moodiness and depression
  • Violent rage
  • Paranoia and delusions
  • Coma

For boys, the artificial hormones may confuse their natural hormones, leading to:

  • Developing breasts
  • Shrunken testicles
  • Reduced sperm count
  • Inability to have sex
  • Painful urination
  • Baldness
  • Higher risk of prostate cancer

For girls, taking male hormones may also cause additional side effects, including:

  • Growing facial hair
  • Baldness
  • Loss of menstrual period
  • Smaller breasts
  • Changes to female organs
  • Permanently deeper voice

Despite these negative effects, some teens still take anabolic steroids. Most teens do not use steroids, and only about 2 to 3 percent of teens ever try steroids. Those who do may do so because:

  • They think it will help them do better in sports
  • They are worried about their appearance
  • They feel pressure from friends or coaches to do it
  • They think all other teen athletes do it
  • They think that's how professional athletes succeed
  • They don't believe that it will have a negative effect on them

Parents can watch for some of the side effects listed above if they are concerned that their teen may be using anabolic steroids. They may also hear their teen use slang terms for steroids. Some street terms for anabolic steroids are:

  • 'Roids'
  • Juice
  • Arnolds
  • Gym candy
  • Pumpers
  • Stackers
  • Weight trainers

Roid rage is the unpredictable anger and violence associated with taking anabolic steroids. Shotgunning is taking steroids occasionally. Stacking is a term for taking steroids with other drugs. This is especially dangerous because it combines the risks of steroids and those of the other drugs.

Parents can help reduce the chances that their teen will use steroids by:

  • Talking to them about the dangers of drug use and setting clear rules against steroid use, like telling them that if they use steroids they will not be allowed to continue doing athletics
  • Encouraging teens to build muscle naturally through healthy eating, exercise, and getting enough rest
  • Having realistic expectations for their teens and accepting them as they are, not pressuring them to be something they are not
  • Regularly praising teen's accomplishments and positive traits can help build self- esteem and reduce the chances that they will be tempted to use drugs
  • Working with coaches to encourage team awareness of the need to avoid steroids and creating positive peer pressure against drug use

Anabolic steroids can be addictive. Teens who have been abusing steroids and have become addicted to them may go through withdrawal, which can cause severe depression and suicide attempts. Teens who are overcoming steroid use and addiction should seek professional guidance to help them overcome their drug problem and address the underlying problems that led them to abuse steroids.


National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA for Teens, "Facts on Drugs: Anabolic Steroids" and "Mind Over Matter: Anabolic Steroids" [online]
Nemours, TeensHealth, "Are Steroids Worth the Risk?" [online]
SAMHSA Health Information Network, Tips for Teens, "The Truth About Steroids" [online]
Mayo Clinic, Tween and Teen Health, "Performance-enhancing Drugs and Your Teen Athlete" [online]
Avishkar Tyagi and Dr. William S. Quillen, ABC News, "Youth and Steroids - A Deadly Combination" [online]

Related Article: Other Drugs Teenagers Abuse >>