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Roid rage: Steroid use common in 5 percent of teens in new study

Teens using steroids may be driven by high performance pressure in sports and a muscular body ideal projected by the media, according to a new study of 2,800 Minnesota teens; steroid use was found to be equally common among athletes and non-athletes.

By Genevra PittmanReuters / November 19, 2012

Teens feeling pressure to gain muscle mass is widespread, according to a new study. Here, football player Johnson Jean-Baptiste does arm curls; athletes at Rindge Latin High School work out in the weight room after school in Cambridge, Mass., March 29, 2002.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/ The Christian Science Monitor

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About five percent of middle and high school students have used anabolic steroids to put on muscle, according to a new study in Minnesota.

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In addition to steroid use, more than one-third of boys and one-fifth of girls in the study said they had used protein powder or shakes to gain muscle mass, and between 5 and 10 percent used non-steroid muscle-enhancing substances, such as creatine.

Researchers said a more muscular body ideal in the media may be one factor driving teens to do anything possible to get toned, as well as pressure to perform in sports.

"Really the pressure to start using [steroids] is in high school," said Linn Goldberg, an Oregon Health & Science University in Portland physician who works on  preventing steroid and other substance use on high school teams. (He was not involved in the Minnesota study).

"You get the influence of older teens in high school, so when you're a 14-year-old that comes in, you have 17-year-olds who are the seniors, and they can have great influence as you progress into the next stage of your athletic career."

The new data came from close to 2,800 kids and teens at 20 different middle and high schools in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. During the 2009-2010 school year, those students completed a survey on food and weight-related behaviors, including activities tied to muscle gain.

The majority of kids surveyed were poor or middle-class.

Almost all of them had engaged in at least one muscle-building activity in the past year, most often working out more to get stronger. But up to one-third of kids and teens used what the researchers deemed to be unhealthy means to gain muscle mass, including taking steroids and other muscle-building substances or overdoing it on protein shakes, dieting and weight-lifting.

Student-athletes were more likely than their peers to use most methods of muscle-building. Steroid use, however, was equally common among athletes and non-athletes.

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