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Performance-enhancing drugs and teen athletes
Performance-enhancing drugs can be tempting for teen athletes. Understand the warning signs and what you can do to keep your teen from using shortcuts to improve athletic performance.By Mayo Clinic staff
Carpools. Practices. Games. If you're the parent of a teen athlete, your life is probably as hectic as your child's. It's important, however, to make time to talk to your teen about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs. By setting rules and consequences and explaining the possible health effects of drug use, you can help your teen steer clear of performance-enhancing drugs.
What are the most common performance-enhancing drugs?
For teens, the most common performance-enhancing drugs and supplements include:
- Creatine. Creatine is a naturally occurring compound in the body that's also sold as an over-the-counter supplement. It's primarily used to enhance recovery after a workout and increase muscle mass and strength. Creatine is popular with athletes who participate in football, gymnastics, hockey and wrestling. Side effects include weight gain, nausea, muscle cramps and kidney damage.
- Anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of the hormone testosterone, used to build muscle and increase strength. They're popular with football players and weightlifters. Use of anabolic steroids can cause heart and liver damage, halt bone growth, and result in a permanently short stature.
- Steroid precursors. Steroid precursors, such as androstenedione ("andro") and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), are substances that the body converts into anabolic steroids. They're used to increase muscle mass. Most steroid precursors are illegal without a prescription. DHEA, however, is still available in over-the-counter preparations. Side effects of steroid precursors are similar to those for steroids.
Why do teens take performance-enhancing drugs?
Some teens experiment with performance-enhancing drugs as a way to cope with insecurities, the difficulties of fitting in with a group of peers or a desire for independence. Others may be influenced by societal pressure to win at all costs.
Common risk factors for teen use of performance-enhancing drugs include:
- A desire to gain muscle mass or strength
- A negative body image or a tendency to compare one's appearance with others'
- Pressure from parents or peers regarding weight or muscles
- Being male — boys are more likely to use performance-enhancing drugs than are girls
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