Saturday, May 18, 2013

Steroids and teens: Young abusers ignore health risks

By Staten Island Advance Editorial 
Steroids aren't just being abused in pro and college sports. It's estimated that the average U.S. high school has 25 to 45 students illegally using the performance-enhancing drug.

On Staten Island, which has 29 high schools, this indicates that up to 1,000 or more pupils potentially face serious health risks or even death because of steroids.
The fact is, about 75 percent of Americans who improperly use the controlled substance are teenagers.

Which largely is going unnoticed here and elsewhere.

Most people don't view steroids as a major problem among high school students, according to a major new survey about perceptions and beliefs nationwide.

It found that just under one in five Americans think that steroid abuse is a real threat in grades nine through 12. One out of two persons views it as an issue among college students; and two out of three as a problem in professional sports.

"We all need to understand that this problem is going on in my child's school and is most likely going on in my child's circle of friends," said Don Hooton of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, a nonprofit that counsels on steroids.

The survey is a collaboration between the Hooton Foundation, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society.
They commissioned the poll to highlight the lack of knowledge about performance-enhancing drugs and the risks faced by young abusers in communities across the nation.
U.S. law prohibits the misuse of steroids, which in 1990 were put into the same legal class as amphetamines, morphine and opium. Steroids can cause cancer, heart problems, liver damage, high blood pressure and behavioral problems.

They can kill you.

Yet the survey found that the public perceives steroid use as the lowest-rated problem among adolescents relative to all other prevalent risk behaviors and conditions; it is ranked even lower than eating disorders.

"These numbers demonstrate the problem of steroid use is bordering on the level of an American tragedy," said Gene Monahan, former trainer of the New York Yankees.
The survey is highly credible.

"The American Public's Perception of Illegal Steroid Use" was developed by the Center for Social Development and Education and the Center for Survey Research at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

It is the most comprehensive opinion poll to date assessing the American public's beliefs about the use of performance-enhancing drugs among adolescents.
"The results of this study show that steroids and performance-enhancing substances remain a mystery to the American public," said Jeff Idelson, who is president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Mr. Hooten called the survey "a step in waking up America to address this problem."
Too often, performance-enhancing drugs — especially steroids — are seen by sports fans mainly as something that skews competition in favor of the players who cheat.
But ignoring the ultimately debilitating effects of steroid abuse ought not to be tolerated at any level.

The incentive for young athletes is undeniable.

Many come to see that enhancing athletic performance with drugs is the road to success despite the dangers — the best way to compete and obtain rewards and riches.
"We have an adult population that is virtually oblivious to the fact that the problem even exists," said Mr. Hooton.

His 17-year-old son, Taylor — a cousin of former big league pitcher Burt Hooton — committed suicide in 2003. Doctors attributed Taylor's behavior to depression caused after he stopped using performance-enhancing drugs.

What is the solution to the problem?

Full-scale drug testing at the high-school level isn't viable because of the cost. Major League Baseball says the price of an illegal substance test under its program is $285.
So more needs to be done through public and private means to educate teenagers and their families about the hazards of performance-enhancing drugs.

It is a dire threat we can't afford to ignore.

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