Persistent reports of anabolic steroid abuse by professional athletes, many of whom are regarded as role models by young people, highlight the fact that we are now facing a very damaging message in our society—that bigger is better, and being the best is more important than how you get there.
Abuse of anabolic steroids differs from the abuse of other illicit substances because the initial abuse of anabolic steroids is not driven by the immediate euphoria that accompanies most drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, but by the desire of abusers to change their appearance and performance, characteristics of great importance to adolescents. The effects of steroids can boost confidence and strength, leading abusers to overlook the potential serious and long-term damage that these substances can cause.
While anabolic steroids can enhance certain types of performance or appearance, they are dangerous drugs, and when used inappropriately they can cause a host of severe, long-lasting, and in some cases, irreversible negative health consequences. Anabolic steroids can lead to early heart attacks, strokes, liver tumors, kidney failure, and serious psychiatric problems. In addition, because steroids are often injected, users who share needles or use nonsterile techniques when they inject steroids are at risk for contracting dangerous infections, such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis B and C.
I hope that students, parents, teachers, coaches, and others will take advantage of the information about anabolic steroids found on the NIDA Web site (www.steroidabuse.gov) and join us in our prevention and education efforts. Participating in sports offers many benefits, but young people and adults should not take unnecessary health risks in an effort to win.
Nora D.Volkow, M.D.
National Institute on Drug Abuse
This series of reports simplifies the science of research findings for the educated lay public, legislators, educational groups, and practitioners. The series reports on research findings of national interest.
As a result of scientific research, we know that addiction is a disease that affects both brain and behavior.