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Illicit Steroid Use Doubled Among Teenage Girl Athletes Since 1991


February 1998

As many as 175,000 high school girls use illegal anabolic steroids to build muscle and enhance athletic performance, according to a study by Charles Yesalis, a professor of health policy at Pennsylvania State University (Charles Yesalis, et al., "Trends in Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Use Among Adolescents," Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, December 1997, pp. 1197-1206; Sandra G. Boodman, "Illicit Steroid Use Up Among Athletic Girls," Washington Post, January 20, 1998, Health section, p. 5; Associated Press, "Steroid use rising among teen-age girls, study shows," Virginian-Pilot, December 15, 1997, p. C3).

Yesalis and his colleagues analyzed data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and two other national studies. They found that self reports of steroid use among junior high and high school girls had doubled since 1991. Use of steroids by boys the same age has remained unchanged. Yesalis said the increase may reflect increased athletic opportunities for young women. He added, "A lean, muscular `hardbody' image popular among actresses and models may be prompting young girls to imitate these so-called ideals." Currently, many steroid prevention programs are aimed at boys, so girls may not be getting the message, the researchers said.

Anabolic steroids, which are male hormones, can produce permanent side effects, such as baldness or hair growth, deepening of the voice and enlargement of the clitoris. Long-term use can cause heart and liver disease.

[Whether the image to create is a healthy "hardbody" look or a wasted, emaciated "heroin-chic" look, the problem gets mischararcterized as a drug problem when teenagers use these drugs to achieve objectives to which they are being socialized. The use of these drugs is not smart, but it is not illogical. Anti-drug education has to address many non-drug issues. -- EES]

Charles Yesalis - 116 Henderson Building, University Park, PA 16802, Tel: (814) 863-7333.