In Part one of this series we talked about the issue of high school athletes and performance-enhancing drugs. We discussed specific drugs and supplements, their athletic effects and dangerous side effects. Today we will discuss why young athletes take them, how to identify the warning signs that your child might be taking them and what you can do as a parent to help. As a mother of two young athletes, and after seeing several patients hospitalized due to side effects of these drugs, I feel it is important to understand the issues and stay informed.
Why do Young Athletes take Them:
- Frustration- most athletes reach a plateau at some point during their training and they may consider taking performance-enhancing drugs or supplements to help them move beyond it.
- Curiosity- adolescents are curious by nature and they may consider experimenting with these substances just to see what happens or because they have heard of amazing results from friends or the internet.
- Effects on the Mind- some of these substances produce feelings of euphoria and invincibility that may be pleasurable enough to make an athlete continue to use them even if they are banned.
- Peer pressure-performance enhancing drugs have become more accepted in recent years and many professional athletes have admitted to using them in order to succeed. Young athletes may feel pressured to remain competitive at all costs.
How does a parent know if their young athlete is taking drugs or supplements? What can parents do to help?
- Behavioral, emotional or psychological changes – mood swings or increased aggressiveness (sometimes known as “roid rage,” as in steroid rage)
- Changes in body build – muscle growth, rapid weight gain or upper body development
- Increased acne, facial bloating, and male-pattern baldness
- Needle marks in buttocks or thighs
- Enlarged breasts in boys or smaller breasts and deeper voice in girls
What Can Parents Do?
- Be clear with your children about your expectations and talk openly- Make it clear that you expect your teen to avoid using performance-enhancing drugs and supplements until the effects are known in young athletes and NO illegal substances should EVER be taken. Discuss with your teen that short-term gains can lead to long term problems.
- Get involved with your teen’s team and talk to the coach- let the coach know you’ve talked to your teen about performance-enhancing drugs and you don’t approve of their use. Ask about the school or club’s drug use policy.
- Discuss ethics and proper training- discuss with your teen fair competition and remind your athlete that using these drugs is cheating. Discuss the potential health dangers of using these substances. The true keys to success involve a proper diet, rigorous training and dedication.
- Monitor your teen’s purchases!- take a close look at the ingredients in over-the-counter preparations your teen might take. Watch for needles or other performance-enhancing drug paraphernalia. Pay attention to what your teen purchases on the Internet! Most of these substances and supplements are easily found on the Internet.
Young athletes have coaches to train and guide them, but it is ultimately our responsibility as parents to talk to our children about performance-enhacing drugs and supplements. Make sure you stay involved in order to help your young athlete achieve his or her potential safely.