Teen Steroid Abuse Treatment
In the 1980s, steroid use was at an all-time high. Teens were actively seeking out the drug in an attempt to become better at sports, gain strength, and become more attractive. Few were taking the drugs under the close watchful eye of a doctor; instead, they accessed the drug on the black market or even on the street. The results were disastrous: overdose, permanent organ damage, psychological distress, permanent hormone disorders, and in some cases, even death.
These days, there is a common tendency to forget about teen steroid abuse. Yet, it does still happen, and when it does, teens can experience immense physical and emotional harm.
Most teens who abuse steroids use either anabolic or androgenic steroid drugs. Both of these substances play an important role in medicine when responsibly prescribed to patients suffering from very specific conditions. Teens who abuse them, however, aren’t sick, they just want to gain the benefits associated with steroid drug use.
Anabolic” steroids directly influence muscle growth, greatly escalating the rate at which teens can develop new muscle. Androgenics create male-like characteristics, like body hair growth, lowered voice, muscle growth, and more “masculine” facial features. Both substances work by dramatically increasing testosterone in the body to dangerous levels.
Steroids of abuse are illegal to use outside of a doctor’s prescription. Yet, hundreds of online webshops and dark web “stores” sell the drugs without even checking a purchaser’s identification. Many dealers buy steroids from research companies or veterinary medicine providers, as neither industry requires purchasers to have a prescription from a medical doctor. The result is that teens who abuse steroids are often taking sub-par, counterfeit, or fraudulent medicine, multiplying the risk of a serious health problem.
What Does Teen Steroid Abuse Look Like?
- Taking any kind of steroid outside of medical intervention is inherently abusive. These drugs are prescription-only because they carry very serious risks to teens, especially during the early years when they are still growing and progressing through puberty. Unfortunately, the teen years are also the primary time when teens enter the pathway to professional athletics and sports, where they are frequently exposed to steroids as a performance-boosting option. Keep an open dialogue with highly active teens.
- Black market and clandestine steroids can be extremely dangerous, causing symptoms like acne, cysts, abscesses, irreversible skin conditions, or even gangrene. Chronic use can even result in organ damage, organ failure, cancerous tumors, and a long list of endocrinological conditions. There is also a significantly high risk of legal prosecution.
- Even low-level or occasional use can be problematic. Some teens experience baldness, sterility, rapid breast growth, and shrinking testicles. Females are particularly affected, developing male-pattern baldness, facial hair, irregular periods, enlargement of the clitoris, and permanently deepened voice.
- Teens are expected to grow, gain weight, and develop muscle – this is a normal part of human development in teens who eat a healthy diet and get enough exercise. It is feasible for a male teen to work out, eat well, and gain a significant amount of muscle in a year or less, but results often decline after the one-year mark. How rapidly they grow and gain muscle is highly dependant on factors like genes, training, sleep quality, and a very long list of other factors. If your teen suddenly gains a lot of muscle in a very short period of time, it may be a warning sign for steroid use. The key is how rapidly results manifest, especially if lifestyle doesn’t seem to match.
Signs of Teen Steroid Abuse
Building muscle rapidly
Acne (often severe)
Abnormally rapid puberty
Injection marks (arms, thighs, buttocks)
Different Types of Steroids
- Testosterone (Androderm)
- Stanozolol (Winstrol)
- Nandrolone (Deca-Durabolin)
- Methandrostenolone (Dianabol)
- Human Growth Hormone (HGH)
What Causes Teen Steroid Abuse?
Self-esteem and body image issues – Steroid use is most common among athletes (professional and amateur) but that doesn’t mean only athletes use steroids. These days, teens using steroids are more often trying to improve their own self-image or appearance. They believe a leaner, more muscled body is inherently more attractive and thus, more liked and appreciated, even if this isn’t always true. Misinformation also convinces them that steroids are essentially risk-free and can be stopped anytime. This is a dangerous combination.
Part of the steroid use phenomenon also has a lot to do with how teenage boys are treated in society. There is a common misconception that they don’t feel as pressured to be attractive compared to teen girls; this just isn’t true. Realistically, teen boys very often feel intensely awkward and uncomfortable in their growing bodies. They come to believe only size and muscle definition will make them conventionally attractive. A small number also suffer from various forms of dysphoria, a condition where the person lacks the ability to see their physical body accurately. This is closely tied to eating disorders.
Athletic aspirations – It’s an uncomfortable point, but the reality is that taking steroids can, in fact, drastically improve performance in sports and athletics. But like the law of gravity, what goes up must come down; athletes who burn brighter due to steroid use often have greatly shorter careers. Athletes should never need steroids, nor should they be required to take them just to be accepted on a team or into a sports organization.Yet, sports industries often make players feel forced to take steroids just to keep up or compete.
Peer pressure – Peer pressure in the sports industry is extremely high. It comes from coaches, organizations, and even teens themselves, especially when they feel they cannot compete. This attitude persists despite attempts to re-focus on clean competition.
of people who use steroids are under 20
of of all high school seniors use steroids
teens seek muscle growth through steroid use
How Can I Help My Teen with Steroid Abuse?
Make sure they understand the risks – Steroid treatment is NOT risk-free, despite what friends may tell your teen. Even prescribed steroids can have a negative impact on physical health. In fact, there is very little evidence steroids have any benefit at all outside of very specific prescription and medical needs. In teens, the risk of severe health problems or permanent damage is so high that using steroids is almost never worth the risk. Educate your teen on side effects like baldness, gynecomastia, liver failure, heart attacks, strokes, and even death. Being honest empowers their ability to make good decisions.
Encourage them to seek help for body image issues – When teens find their own bodies disgusting, appalling, or otherwise “ugly,” it is a sign that they are suffering from extreme body image problems. Often, this manifests in very subtle ways: they refuse to go shirtless, avoid looking in the mirror, or suddenly stop engaging in personal hygiene routines, like makeup or hair care. While it’s normal to be critical of one’s own appearance, these severe behaviors should really be assessed by a mental health professional. Teens with self-image issues may also be suffering from anxiety disorders or dysmorphia.
Encourage a healthy relationship with sports and exercise – If you have a teen who loves sports or wants to be involved in professional sports after high school, teach them to view steroids as excessive and unnecessary rather than a viable option. Also have conversations about when to draw the line on exercising, working out, restricting calories, and training. It is possible for teens to exercise too much, often to their own physical detriment, and “clean eating” can quickly turn into orthorexia if left unchecked.
While it’s far easier to prevent steroid use, some parents will discover their teens are using them. Be aware that teens may fight your attempts to get them to stop, arguing that it benefits their health or performance in a way that cannot be replaced. Educate yourself on safe, natural ways to achieve higher performance and muscle gain, and share this information with them. It also helps if you can show your teen that they have the ability to train and even excel all on their own – no steroids involved.
What Types of Treatment Are Available for Teen Steroid Abuse?
Steroids are not necessarily physically addictive in the same way as cigarettes, alcohol, or opioid drugs. However, the body does change when exposed to steroids and increased levels of testosterone, developing a tolerance. During each steroid course, teens will experience physiological and psychological changes; once they cycle off they will experience troubling withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, depression, insomnia, loss of muscle, and high blood pressure. A lack of motivation or deep fatigue is also common, and teens may feel as if they have to take the steroids in order to feel normal.
Teen steroid abuse treatment always starts with separating the teen from their drug of choice. This includes withdrawing them from the drug itself as well as breaking their connection with the people and/or contacts who have been providing them access to steroids. The best way to achieve this is with inpatient residential care and licensed facility.
Teens must be convinced that they can stop using steroids and live without them, but this process can take some time. If your teen also has other co-occurring mental health issues, like anxiety, body image problems, or dysphoria, they may be unable to envision a future without steroids at all. In fact, steroid use may even magnify those symptoms, which is why talk therapy is often the first suggested step.
Most teens don’t just wake up one day and decide to take steroids. Instead, their decision stems from a variety of contributing factors, like peer or internal pressure to excel. Rapid onset of puberty can sometimes lead to steroid use, too, especially if the teen doesn’t have time to learn to cope with their new body. Therapists can work with your team one-on-one to address these issues, unpeeling them like an onion layer by layer. The goal is to get to the root of the problem and fix it so that teens no longer feel driven to use.
Residential facilities fill an important role in teen steroid abuse treatment. At the very least, it helps teens get away from the influences that drove them to use steroids in the first place. It can also help teens realign themselves with who they originally were while giving them a safe space where they can focus on their personal issues.
Teen Steroid Abuse Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco
Teen steroid abuse treatment is always important because steroids are so risky for teens to use in the first place. Remember that steroids cause serious physical changes to the brain and body, many of which can change mood and feelings. Teens can become emotionally addicted to how the drug makes them feel, leading to extreme pushback if you ask them to stop.
At Paradigm San Francisco, we know how important it is for teens to have professional oversight and protection during the first critical weeks of recovery.
Addressing Other Issues
Teens who enter Paradigm San Francisco’s programs are initially stabilized and safely detoxed from the drug they’re using.
After they’ve recovered from the detox process, treatment expands to include strategies to help teens explore the root causes of their addiction. This includes peer pressure, personal body image, personal ideas of excellence, and even long-term goals. We help teens find ways to look forward to the future in excitement – no steroids involved.
Time Spent Reflecting
Teens at Paradigm also spent time in self-reflection. They are provided individual support to help them identify their stressors, triggers, and conflicts, learning new ways to cope and discovering new resources to help them live drug-free. Yet, they also have free time to sit and think, create, explore our beautiful grounds, spend time with peers, and re-learn just how fun life without steroids can really be. Getting sober is only the first step – staying sober is the real, long-term goal.
It's the one program that allowed my child to continue his school work. The parent weekend involvement/training changed all of our lives. The place is beautiful, the staff highly qualified and always available to help. It's been almost a year since my child left and he still calls occasionally for guidance. I could not ask for more.
– Clarke D.
Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Steroid Abuse
How do I know if my teen is using steroids if they deny it?
First, know that not every teen who gains weight quickly is using steroids. Growth spurts are normal and to be expected; suspicious behavior and extremely rapid gains are, in fact, a sign for concern. If you find hypodermic needles, glass files, or medication packaging, your intuition that they are using drugs may be right. You can have teens tested for steroid use, if necessary, but most teens will admit to using if they’re faced with the prospect of a mandatory drug test. Remember that it’s always better to say sorry for making a mistake than it is to find out your teen was using drugs once it’s too late.
Are steroids always dangerous?
In the medical industry, steroids can help patients build muscle mass, maintain weight, or even fight off the effects of very serious illnesses. In fact, for some patients, steroid use can literally be the difference between life and death. Yet even for patients who need them, they are still risky to use, even when prescribed.
Steroids impact nearly every part of the body, playing a critical role in hormone balance. Whenever you introduce new steroids or increase testosterone levels, it will unbalance the body’s own natural ability to maintain the correct levels. Developing teens are even more seriously affected, and can be left with lifelong physical and emotional health problems, even when using pharmaceutical products. Using black market drugs is even more dangerous; ultimately, it can lead to permanent disability or death.