Remember the reckless teen years when a misguided whim or a dare would set you in a direction that would supposedly guarantee things such as the following?
Making the sports team,
Meeting peer pressure and demands,
"Getting the girls or the boys,"
Being able to compete with others,
Looking as good as you could.
Welcome to the 21st Century and a promise of a shortcut to solving many of these desires. Teens, today, are under incredible pressures to mold themselves into unachievable states of perfection commonly conceived by a media-crazed society. At the top of the list of attributes is the young, beautiful, hard human body.
When girls are encouraged to become prepubescent eye-candy before they hit the double-digits, and ‘buffed boys’ strive for ripped six-pack abs of video game icons, there is going to be socio-emotional fallout.
Girls Under the Most Societal Pressures
When a person’s value comes only from her/his sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics, and when a person is sexually objectified, e.g., made into a thing for another’s sexual use.” Unfortunately, many females seem to believe this definition of sexual objectivity as something natural and desirable.
A new study of social attitudes by Girls Guides reported that almost half of all secondary school girls say they would undergo laser treatment, liposuction or some form of plastic surgery to change the way they look. The study found that 46 per cent of girls aged 11 to 16, and 50 per cent of girls aged 16 to 21 would consider cosmetic surgery to make themselves thinner or prettier. The figures are even higher among under-16s who are not doing well at school. The authors of the report said that they were particularly concerned that girls started finding fault with their appearance at a very early age. (Rosemary Bennett, www.timesonline.co.uk, November 3 2009)
Dr Sharon Lamb, Professor of Psychology at Vermont University, mentions the Barbie beauty craze now starts in preschool. Amy Jussel (www.shapingyouth.org) found this very ironic since developmentally, their motor skills are not even fine tuned to dress one! Ever watched those tiny little hands struggling with getting an outfit on a doll?
Joyce Arthur, related in her blog, "The sexualization of girls and women appears to be closely tied to fashion and physical appearance. The extremes of fashion can have the effect of restricting women's freedom, or sexualizing them too much... The biggest crime in my view is that women's intelligence and abilities are perceived as less important, or even irrelevant, compared to their sexuality." The Kaiser Family Foundation found that 77% of prime time material gives sexual cues, and girls were three times more likely to appear in lingerie or sleepwear than their counterparts.
So, what if something could give a young woman the "edge" she believes is needed to look her best to approach the accepted standards of beauty in a world of near universal perception of physical attractiveness? Wouldn't the impressionable teen take considerable risks to achieve desired results? The pressure is certainly great to "cave in."
Anabolic steroids are man-made (synthetic) drugs that are similar to the male hormone testosterone. Anabolic means to "build up." These drugs increase the body's ability to make proteins and build them into muscle tissue. They are also called anabolic-androgenic steroids. Androgenic means that the features of the male body are enhanced.
Slang words for steroids are hard to find. Most people just say steroids. On the street, steroids may be called "roids," "juice," "pumpers," or "stackers." The scientific name for this class of drugs is anabolic-androgenic steroids. But even scientists shorten it to anabolic steroids. Steroids are legally available in the United States only by prescription. Anabolic steroid abusers obtain drugs that have been made in clandestine laboratories (sometimes with poor quality control standards), smuggled from other countries, or diverted illegally from U.S. pharmacies.
Girls And Steroids
It's not just boys who are abusing steroids. An Oregon Health and Science University report, based on data collected in 2003 by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that about 5.3 percent of high school-age girls admitted to using steroids. By 2005, that number dropped to 3.2 percent, according to the CDC.
Separate data from National Institute of Drug Abuse surveys (2008 Monitoring the Future Study) shows much lower usage among women than the CDC findings, indicating that 1.1% of high-school aged women are using steroids. Still, in both cases, the data shows a disturbing trend, with reported steroid use among women increasing four-fold over the last decade.
John Stewart, commissioner of the Florida High School Athletic Association, is also concerned by a study that showed not only football players and weightlifters, but females in the 9-to-11-year-old age group used steroids to enhance their build. "That's scary because it means parents are buying them for kids. And it's a scary thing that society is dictating to kids that young that it's OK to put your health at risk to have a body type that seems so critically important," Stewart says.(Seth Livingstone, Sports Weekly, June 8 2005)
The NIDA-funded 2008 Monitoring the Future Study showed that 0.9% of 8th graders, 0.9% of 10th graders, and 1.5% of 12th graders had abused anabolic steroids at least once in the year prior to being surveyed. However, among those who do abuse them, steroid abuse is higher among males than females but is growing most rapidly among young women.
Steroid Usage Other Than Girls In Competitive Athletics
Now, the usage of anabolic steroids is not just limited to those girls involved in competitive athletics. According to a national survey published in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, steroid use in girls is also associated with a cluster of harmful behavior patterns such as diet pills and smoking. (www.isteroids.com, July 30 2009)
said such findings highlight important associations among girls who use steroids. When Diane L. Elliot, M.D., of the Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, and colleagues assessed anabolic steroid use among teen girls using a nationally representative sample of U.S. high schools completed in 2003, she and her colleagues concluded, “Across all grades, these seem to be troubled adolescent girls with co-occurring health-compromising activities in the domains of substance use, sexual behavior, violence and mental health.”
A Case In Study
(Reported by Jim Avila, Beth Tribolet, Lauren Pearle, and Scott Michels, ABC News Law & Justice Unit, February 20 2008)
Dionne Passacantando desperately wanted to be thin. In 2003, Passacantando was a petite and popular high school student in Allen, Texas. But the 17-year-old cheerleader, gymnast, homecoming princess, and senior class vice president said she felt pressured to slim down, to have that "Shape magazine, six-pack" look. A described "vanity kind of thing," her desire to slim down from dress size 2 to 0 and to have a rock-hard body help drive her to definite physical and psychological risks.
So, Dionne took what seemed to be an easy route to a better body, and she began using anabolic steroids. After she spent $250.00 and waited 48 hours, a member of football team delivered her steroids. "Nobody frowned upon it," she says. "It was easier for me to get those than it probably was to buy beer."
Instead of six-pack abs, Passacantando gained 10 pounds of muscle. Once she ordered three steaks and ate them all at one sitting. "That was not what I wanted," she says.
But within five weeks, her voice had deepened. She felt "out of control," and mired in depression. After injecting herself with the Winstrol every other day for those five weeks, she even became suicidal. "It definitely made me feel alone," she said of the drugs. "It pushed me to a state of depression that harming myself was definitely not out of the question." Her obsession with flat abs had eventually turned into steroid abuse.
Eventually, Dionne drove herself to the hospital and reported her drug abuse. She stated, "I went to a mental health facility for three days after that. They put me on antidepressants and it took a long time to get it out of my system.
Physically, I kind of felt the effects when I stopped. Withdrawal."
Dionne said, "I just pray that it won't affect me in the future. In the next couple of years, I'll be thinking of having a family. Those are things I have to worry about right now." Her mother believes it's a miracle Dionne is still alive.
Steroids And Their Effects on Teenage Girls
Steroid use by teenage girls can cause side effects, including facial hair growth, male-pattern baldness, changes in or cessation of the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris, and a permanently deepened voice. "The drugs can also stunt a person's growth, and have been associated with liver problems and cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Linn Goldberg, head of health promotion and sports medicine at Oregon Health and Science, and one of the authors of the university's report on steroid use among teenage girls.
Lead researcher Dr. Linn Goldberg, head of the Division of Health Promotion and Sports Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University stated, "Moreover, these girls were more likely to have had sexual intercourse before age 13; been pregnant; to drink and drive or ride with a drinking driver; to carry a weapon; or been involved in a fight on school property in the past year. They were also more likely to have feelings of sadness or hopelessness almost every day for at least two weeks, and attempted suicide. (Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, June 2007, reported in www.statesman.com, June 4 2007)
Dr. Todd Schlifstein, a sports medicine rehabilitation doctor at New York University, found steroid usage among girls terrifying. "Girls are more sensitive to hormonal levels in anabolic steroids and risk irreversible side effects, including arrested growth, infertility and permanent secondary male characteristics," said Schliftein, who last year testified before Congress on the issue. Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter, ScoutNews, 2007)
A Special Word to Women Athletes
Dr. Eric Small, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on sports medicine, said adults should gently ask youngsters about possible steroid use. “Talking about supplements and steroids needs to start in the third grade,” Small said. “If you wait till ninth grade, it’s too late.” At least one study indicates some parents and coaches supply steroids to teen athletes. (www.aznews.us, Arizona News, April 25 2005) Girl athletes beware! It is possible that females are more vulnerable to early steroid addiction than men.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reported that doctors treated more than 3.5 million children for sports injuries in 2003 and warned against treating young athletes as "merely small adults." Former NFL player Steve Courson - a Superbowl winner who confessed to using steroids - says the whole mentality of youth sports needs to change. "How can coaches teach valuable lessons about preparing youth for life when their value is based only on wins and losses?" he told a Congressional hearing last week. Parents are also being urged to take responsibility. (Matthew Davis, BBC News, May 3 2005) Parents involved in the ever-more-popular field of women's athletics should open their eyes to the possibility of steroid abuse.