The newspapers are confirming what most of us already know: more and more adolescent schoolboys are taking powerful anabolic steroids. And they’re not only taking them to enhance their sports performance but also “to look good.” So as a parent, how would you spot if your son is taking these dangerous drugs?
Steroid use can affect all aspects of your child’s health and well-being as well as affect the family as a whole. Here are some of the signs that you should be on the lookout for in the early stages of steroid use. We have not included some of the more serious side effects that may arise in long term use as we hope that adolescents have not yet reached this stage. It should also be borne in mind that some of these signs will be displayed as part of the normal maturing process of teenagers as the effect of testosterone and anabolic steroids are very similar.
· Puffiness/swelling of the neck region in particular, caused by increased water retention
· The emergence of acne in an adolescent who has not previously had acne or increased acne or acne found in new places, e.g. back and neck
· Increased appetite
· Increased muscle mass
· Development of breast tissue in males
· Complaints about heart palpitations
· Increased blood pressure
· Irritation of the stomach lining and other parts of the gastro-intestinal tract
· Stomach ulcers
· Increased aggression and fighting with family and friends
· Mood changes
· Anxiety and irritability
· Sleeping difficulties
· Change in friends
· Running out of pocket money/allowance and asking for more than would seem reasonable
· Withdrawal from family and normal activities
· Decline in school performance
· Taking supplements. Research has shown that adolescents who take supplements have an increased tendency to move onto more serious substances such as steroids and recreational drugs
What can you do?
· Increase your knowledge and education about anabolic steroids. How do they work? What are their dangers and side effects? The following organisations offer good literature in this regard, SharkSmart , South African Institute for Drug Free Sport.
· Understand that hard work, good nutrition, training and conditioning are far more effective physically and psychologically in enhancing sports performance than taking steroids.
· Listen to what you adolescent is talking about with his friends as this will give you a good clue as to his intentions and activities
· Talk to your child about steroids – their use and dangers
· Be vigilant and look out for the above signs and changes in your adolescent’s behaviours
· If you are concerned consult a medical professional urgently