Since bygone days, athletes have been linked to performance enhancing drugs. While the Ancient Romans and Greeks used different methods to improve performance, today's athletes make use of drugs like anabolic androgenic steroids (AAS). This is primarily because steroids can dramatically boost muscle growth and body strength and a recent study has revealed that use of anabolic steroids is high not only among athletes, but also among gay and bisexual teen boys.
According to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers found that gay adolescents abuse anabolic androgenic steroids at a rate six times higher than their straight counterparts. Commonly used to increase muscularity for improving physical performance and appearance, steroids can be taken orally or injected into the muscle.
The Palo Alto Medical Foundation recently revealed that five to 12 percent of all male high school students and one percent of female students have used anabolic steroids by the time they were high school seniors. A recent study by researchers from the Fenway Institute disclosed that this rate of steroid use is much higher among gay and bisexual teenagers, which indicates an association between body image and bullying issues.
Dr. Aaron Blashill and Dr. Steven Safren, in this first study of its kind, compared the lifetime prevalence of illicit steroid use among gay, bisexual, and straight teenage boys and to find out the possible factors that may explain prevalence differences. In the study, over 17,000 adolescent boys between 14 and 18 years old, from the nationally-represented 2005 and 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveys participated for accurately assessing steroid rates among these groups. The surveys were conducted in 2005 and 2007 in 14 cities and small states, including Boston, Chicago, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, and Vermont.
Findings of the study revealed that 21 percent of gay and bisexual boys, compared to four percent of straight boys, made use of anabolic androgenic steroids that suggested gay and bisexual male teens were six times more likely to report a lifetime prevalence of steroids. It was also revealed that four percent of gay and bisexual male teens more likely to be heavy steroid users as compared to 0.7 percent of heterosexual boys. Blashill, co-author of the study, said it is a bit sad that we saw such a large health disparity, especially among the most frequent steroid users and added it would seem given the dramatic disparity that this is a population in which greater attention is needed. However, some experts believe the differences are not surprising as gay youth are known to have body image issues.
Marla Eisenberg, an associate professor with the department of pediatrics at the University of Minnesota, said generally speaking, the gay male subculture places a greater emphasis on physical appearance than straight men do.
Charles Yesalis, professor emeritus of health policy & administration and kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University, said steroids are not major killer drugs like amphetamines or heroin, or tobacco for that matter. He added if you use these drugs at high doses for protracted periods of time, you're putting yourself in harm's way but he cannot classify them as a major killer drug.