Anabolic Steroids and Adolescent Peer Pressure
Adolescence is a unique transitional stage during which teens are no longer children, but not yet adults. It’s a time when teens discover who they are, and contemplate who they want to become. During this stage teenagers face challenging decisions many of which are influenced by peers. Illicit drugs invariably become one of these decisions, and several are electing to use androgenic anabolic steroids (AAS).
“Peer pressure” is the term used to describe situations in which members of the same age group influence each other’s decisions. We’re not talking about body piercing or who to date. Peer pressure with regard to teens can be a powerful reality manifested in variety of negative ways. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “It often challenges the teenagers’ morals, values and beliefs in such areas as experimentation with tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs.” During this normal part of the maturation process parents and teens become more physically and psychologically independent of each other, while peers begin to replace the family as the teen’s socialization center. By the time a teenager reaches high school, they’ve doubtlessly heard these phrases several times:
“I’m going for it, who’s with me?”
“Come on, it won’t kill you.”
“All the popular kids are doing it.”
“Everyone is doing it.”
“What are you afraid of?”
Resisting Peer Pressure
“To think is to say no.”
By the time they reach adolescence, kids have a firm grasp of right and wrong. Most kids give into peer pressure because they don’t want to stand out. They simply want to be accepted, and will often justify behaviors by making excuses for what are clearly irrational decisions. But when it comes to drug use, it’s hard to pass up an offer without standing out. Although easier in succession, it is still quite difficult to be the only person who stands up and says no to the group. Remaining true to one’s morals, and considering a choice before acting can help teens navigate potentially harmful slopes. No one should harm their body by taking illegal substances just to fit in. You alone must deal with the repercussions of your decision. Damaged internal organs can hospitalize you, and should your decision turn fatal it will be your corpse lying in the coffin. This may seem hard to believe, but often the pressuring parties are seeking approval for their behaviors. So remember that your denial could also assist others in making right decisions.
The Parents Role
Although friends become more influential at this point in life, teens do not forget the teachings instilled at home. Parents often believe that their teenagers no longer value their opinions, but studies indicate the opposite is true. Parents are encouraged to discuss ways to combat peer pressure with their children. Role playing and rehearsing different scenarios are among many of the beneficially fortifying lessons at a parent’s disposal, and the earlier this topic is addressed the better the result. According to ‘Parenting of Adolescents’, there are six ways to teach your child to say no:
- No thanks.
- I don’t feel like it.
- It’s not my thing.
- Are you talking to me? Forget it!
- Why do you keep pressuring me when I’ve said NO?
- Back Off!
Some people feel that the sport of professional bodybuilding is to blame for steroid pressures. After all, bodybuilding is a contradictory practice in name, method and ideals. Instead of building as the name implies, it systematically diminishes health by increasing bodyweight, wearing on joints, risking both chronic and acute injuries, and deteriorating one’s health. Although it does provide some mental health benefits like increased self-esteem, self-discipline and self-empowerment, these are greatly outweighed by the promotion of insecurity, shame, and the portrayal of unrealistic physical goals. In ‘The Word’, author and professional bodybuilder Paul Dillet states, “Although it is undeniable that these individuals are using steroids, I think the professionals do have some degree of responsibility to conduct themselves in a professional manner at least when they are in public.
I feel that too many young males are being brought up to admire and try to achieve a specific physique that they are not physically and genetically capable of achieving without the use of steroids.” Sadly many teens fall deeply into steroid abuse and begin to borrow and even steal money to finance their habits. Dillet goes on to say, “The recreational use of drugs in bodybuilding is just out of control! I’m not here to label or judge anyone. What people do with their lives is their own business. I think there are better ways to spend your money because the amount of money they’re spending every month on these drugs is two car payments on an SL500! Personally, I’d like to drive the nice car, work hard for my physique, and have money left over!”
Another adolescent pressure with regard to steroid use is the enhanced potential for success in sports, and the desire for athletic scholarships. A coach is far more than a team strategist. He can also motivate, offer encouragement, build confidence, direct, and mold young minds. Although coaches are in the unique position to build special rapport with their athletes, many underestimate their influence. The team should be encouraged to ask life questions, and to discuss drug use in a non-threatening environment. All too often the failure by coaches to address this topic is mistaken for consent, or a lack concern. ‘The Right Stuff for Coaches’ lists these basics for a successful athletic drug prevention program:
- Use your team captains and leaders to encourage teammates to abide by rules
- Regular and honest communication with athletes
- Positive Peer Pressure
- Training Rule Enforcement
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of steroid use
- Be fair to everyone
- Be prepared and have a plan when you have to deal with an athlete who is using AAS
- Talk immediately with athletes you suspect are using AAS
- Offer follow-up assistance
- Parental Cooperation
- Promote Healthy alternatives and activities
- Be a good role model
Positive Peer Pressure
Thus far this article has painted a bleak picture of peer pressure, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Adolescents can also influence each other in a positive manner. Youth outreach programs such as ATLAS (Anabolic Steroid Prevention for Teen Athletes) and ATHENA (Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition Alternatives), were developed to encourage positive peer pressure in high school athletes. It can be extremely helpful to have at least one friend who is willing to take the stand with you. Simply put teens that surround themselves by positive influences won’t be as pressured to make bad decisions. Common phrases during adolescence include, “choose your friends wisely,” and “birds of a feather flock together.”
Adolescents must be encouraged to be strong and stand up for what they believe in. The moral of this story is “Be strong!” Just say NO!
"Help Your Teen Handle Peer Pressure", About: Parenting of Adolescents, 31 January 2007
"Preparing Youth for Peer Pressure", About: Parenting of Adolescents, 31 January 2007,
"6 Tactics to Aid Your Teen with Peer Acceptance", About: Parenting of Adolescents, 31 January 2007
"What to Do When Your Teen Is Being Influenced by Negative Peer Pressure", About: Parenting of Adolescents, 31 January 2007
"The Right Stuff For Coaches", About: Parenting of Adolescents, 31 January 2007