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Steroid Use in Girls vs. Boys

Girl and boy teen athletes holding weights in their hands  

Steroid misuse and abuse among teenagers is associated with substantial consequences that can have lifelong physical and psychological ramifications. The type of steroids that are most commonly abused among high school students are known as anabolic-androgenic steroids, which are commonly referred to as anabolic steroids.

Anabolic steroids are synthetic steroids that mimic the male sex hormone testosterone. The reason why anabolic steroids are commonly abused among athletes (particularly weight lifters) is because they promote muscle development and reduce the amount of time required for muscles to recover between workouts.

Teens on steroids will often exhibit rapid increases in muscle mass and may be preoccupied with going to the gym or other forms of exercise. Luckily high school steroid use is uncommon, but teenagers and steroids are more common among high school athletes.

Because anabolic steroids are synthetic versions of testosterone, there are significant differences in the side effects that boys and girls will experience when they misuse or abuse them.

Statistics on Steroid Use in Teens

Teenage steroid use statistics are provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey, which collects data on drug misuse and abuse among 8th, 10th and 12th graders across the country.

Trends in steroid use among high school students show a significant reduction in both the number of students who have ever used steroids and those who regularly use steroids. The peak prevalence of steroid misuse or abuse among high school students was in 1999, coinciding with professional baseball player Mark McGuire’s record number of home runs and his subsequent admission that he was taking the anabolic steroid precursor androstenedione.

In 1999, an overall 1.7% of high school students reported using steroids, with the vast majority of teenagers who used steroids being boys: 2.8% of 10th-grade boys reported using steroids in 1999. Since then, steroid use has significantly fallen among all high school students, with the 2018 MTF reporting that 0.6% of 8th and 10th graders had used steroids at least once in the past year, and 1.1% of 12th graders had used steroids at least once in the past year.

Female Steroid Use Statistics

Statistics on steroid misuse and abuse among female teenagers shows that it is very uncommon. 2018 MTF data showed that approximately 0.6% of female 8th graders and 0.5% of female 10th and 12th graders reported that they had used steroids at least one time in the past year.

Male Steroid Use Statistics

Anabolic steroid misuse and abuse is slightly higher among teenage boys than it is among girls, with the 2018 MTF data showing that 0.6% of male 8th graders, 0.8% of male 10th graders and 1.4% of male 12th graders reported that they had used steroids at least once in the previous year.

Why Do Teens Use Steroids?

Among the key causes of steroid use among high school students are to improve perceptions related to teen body image and to increase athleticism. Steroids in high school sports are relatively uncommon but because of high expectations for performance, anabolic steroid misuse and abuse do occur among teenage athletes.

Reasons for Adolescent Male Steroid Use

It is difficult to find current data that sheds light on why teens use steroids, possibly because of the low prevalence of use. However, data exists from the peak years of steroid misuse and abuse among high school students. A 1998 Massachusetts study evaluating adolescent steroid use found that steroid use among adolescent boys was most prevalent among gymnasts (9%), followed by weight training (5%), basketball (3%) and football (3%). It is likely that this data would be somewhat different today, but they provide insight into why adolescent boys might use steroids.

Reasons for Adolescent Female Steroid Use

Steroid use among adolescent girls is significantly lower than among boys. A 1998 study of Massachusetts adolescent steroid use found that the most common reason teenage girls misused or abused anabolic steroids was weight lifting (9%), baseball (6%), hockey (5%) and gymnastics (4%). More current gender-specific data for teenage steroid use are currently unavailable.

Side Effects of Steroid Use in Teens

There are some characteristic physical and psychological signs and symptoms that a teenager on steroids will exhibit. Both boys and girls may show the following side effects:

Long term consequences may include:

Female Side Effects

Girls on steroids display a different set of side effects than boys will display. Female steroid use side effects may include:

  • Deepening voice
  • Shrinking breast tissue
  • Facial hair
  • Increased body hair
  • Male-pattern baldness
  • Altered or stopped menstrual cycle

Male Side Effects

Effects of steroids on males may include:

  • Baldness
  • Shrinking testicles
  • Decreased sperm count
  • Development of breast tissue

Teenagers face real lifelong adverse effects when they misuse or abuse anabolic steroids during high school. If you are concerned that your teen is struggling with a steroid use disorder, help is available. Next Generation Village is a teen-specific rehab facility that is equipped to address every facet of recovery and help your teen get his or her life back on track. Contact us today to learn more about how professional rehab can help your teen.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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