Contact: Beverly Jackson
"In December 1999 when our Monitoring the Future survey showed that anabolic steroid use by 8th and 10th graders had increased, and that the perceived risk about steroids had declined among 12th graders, we knew we had to take steps to reverse this trend before it gained momentum," explained Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
On April 14, NIDA and several partners announced a national multimedia public education initiative designed to alert the public to the dangers of anabolic steroids.
The Monitoring the Future survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders has been conducted annually for the past 25 years. According to the 1999 survey, 2.7 percent of 8th and 10th graders and 2.9 percent of 12th graders reported that they had taken anabolic steroids at least once in their lives. These numbers show a significant increase from 1991, the first year that data on steroid abuse were collected from the younger students.
Anabolic steroids is the familiar name for synthetic substances related to testosterone, the male sex hormone. While these drugs have medical uses, such as treating delayed puberty, some types of impotence, and wasting of the body caused by HIV infection or other diseases, when abused, anabolic steroids have serious health consequences. In boys and men, the abuse of anabolic steroids can reduce sperm production, shrink the testicles, and cause impotence and irreversible breast enlargement. Girls and women can develop more masculine characteristics such as deepening of the voice and excessive body hair.
In addition, abuse of anabolic steroids can stunt bone growth in adolescents and result in potentially permanent damage to the heart, liver, and kidneys. Individuals who inject anabolic steroids with nonsterile needles also risk developing HIV and other blood-borne infections.
"I'm pleased that we have the help of so many others in this effort to reach young people, their parents, and others who may think that anabolic steroids are a harmless way to 'bulk up' or achieve athletic goals," Dr. Leshner continued.
The Institute's partners in the initiative include the National Collegiate Athletic Association, American College of Sports Medicine, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Association of School Nurses, National Federation of High Schools, International Students in Action, and Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of MTV's Loveline and drDrew.com.
In addition to launching a new website-www.steroidabuse.org-the partnership will distribute 250,000 copies of a specially prepared Community Drug Alert Bulletin about anabolic steroids. NIDA will also distribute 150,000 copies of an updated report about anabolic steroids. The eight-page report explains what research has shown about anabolic steroids and their effects, as well as approaches to prevent the use of these drugs.
Also, a total of 500,000 postcards with messages about the harmful effects of steroids are being distributed during April by HotStamp, Inc., in nearly a thousand locations nationwide. The postcards are available in selected gyms, movie theaters, shopping malls, bookstores, restaurants, and clubs in Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle, Indianapolis, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. Half the cards contain a message directed at men and the other 250,000 list the side effects of these drugs on women. All of this material is available on the new website-www.steroidabuse.org.
During the news conference, NIDA also highlighted a prevention program developed by Dr. Linn Goldberg and Dr. Diane Elliot, both of Oregon Health Sciences University. With NIDA funding, Drs. Goldberg and Elliot devised and demonstrated the effectiveness of "Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids" (ATLAS) program in the Portland area. ATLAS used a team-centered and gender-specific approach that addressed key risk and protective factors associated with anabolic steroids and other drug use. The program also provided sports nutrition and strength training alternatives to athletic enhancing substances, as well as strategies to avoid alcohol and other drugs. A total of 3,207 football players in 31 Oregon high schools participated in the three-year study between 1994 and 1996.
"This study substantiates the benefits of a gender-specific, sport team-centered approach to adolescent health risks and behaviors," Dr. Goldberg explained. "In addition to lowering the reported use of anabolic steroids, ATLAS participants also reported less use of alcohol and illicit drugs, and less drinking and driving."
The same researchers are developing a prevention program for girls, "Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives" (ATHENA), that will be designed to
reduce the use of anabolic steroids and other body shaping drugs, and prevent eating disorders.
Note to reporters: The full text of the article describing the ATLAS study was just published in the April issue of The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. A copy of "The Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids Program: Preventing Drug Use and Promoting Health Behaviors" (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med.2000;154:332-338.) is available online at: www.archpediatrics.com or by calling the AMA's Science News Department at
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports more than 85 percent of the world's research on the health aspects of drug abuse and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs of abuse and other topics can be ordered free of charge in English and Spanish by calling NIDA Infofax at 1-888-NIH-NIDA (644-6432) or 1-888-TTY-NIDA (889-6432) for the deaf. These fact sheets and further information on NIDA research and other activities can be found on the NIDA home page at http://www.drugabuse.gov.