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Athletics and substance abuse: Risky business

August 21, 2011
By CATHY BROWNFIELD - Family Recovery Center , Salem News

High school athletes have been getting into shape and ready for their fall sports seasonfootball, cross-country, volleyball, and golf. A mix of weather conditions has been thrown at them. And, as we know, even the best, professional athletes can succumb to the use and abuse of substances that can enhance their athletic performance. There are dangers to consider. Ultimately, the athlete makes the choice. But is it an informed choice?

NIDA (National Institute on Drug Use) reports that researchers "tested the effects of chronic exposure to anabolic (muscle-building) and androgenic (masculinizing) steroids on the brain circuits that underlie aggression and reproductive behaviorsAdolescent female mice were particularly sensitive to the effects"

The effects of steroid use can be serious:

Can prematurely shorten height in boys and girls who use them before they reach their full natural height.

Infertility, baldness, breast development, increased risk of prostate cancer in boys and men.

Menstrual abnormalities, voice deepening,, breast shrinkage, baldness, acne, body hair and increased sex drive in girls and women.

Increased risks of liver and heart disease, stroke, aggression and depression in both males and females.

Use of injected steroids increase risk of hepatitis, HIV, and other infections from using shared needles.

The message appears to be that "bigger is better" and getting there fast is more important than getting there safely, whether it's healthy or not.

NIDA explains that "anabolic-androgenic steroids are synthetic substances related to male hormones." The reasons for use have already been explained: for sports performance. Numerous professional sports figures have come under the spotlight for their use of steroids. They may make you stronger in the short-run, but over the long term, you may pay a high price. Baseball's Mark McGwire regrets that he used them. He has gone on to do some good things, though, like starting a foundation that helps abused children, and working with the National Kidney Foundation.

Can't happen to you? A lot of people have probably thought that same thing. "Chad" wanted people to admire him as a muscular kind of guy. Weight-lifting and diet weren't enough. He used steroid supplements and when they didn't meet his desires quickly enough he bumped things up to anabolic steroids. It IS illegal to use drugs for muscle-building. Eventually his hair started to fall out. He developed an acne problem, and worse, he began to suffer chest pain. You can read his story, and others, at

When making choices, everyone should make informed choices. Think about the pros and cons before taking an action you for which you will have to deal with consequences, perhaps for the rest of your life.

Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities. For more information about athletics and substance abuse, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1486 or FRC is funded, in part, by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.



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