More than ever, teenage boys are getting on the “juice” to get the bulky, muscle-bound look they think girls go for. Only this “juice” isn’t Florida-squeezed, full of pulp and packed with vitamin C. This “juice” is called steroids.

This “juice” is called steroids, and according to a survey by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, steroid use among high school sophomores has more than doubled since 1992.

And it’s not just hard-core athletes that are taking the drug. Body-conscience boys driven to impress their peers are stepping up in large numbers to get a quick fix for their “average” bodies, according to the New York Times. The struggle for self-image isn’t just against fat, but against buff body styles of male models, athletes and body builders.

Steroids do speed up the bulking process, but at a high price.

“Side effects of steroid abuse include high blood pressure, headaches, interference with normal growth, aching joints, severe acne, baldness, anxiety and aggressive behavior (so-called ‘roid rage’),” according to WebMD. “Boys may experience shrunken testicles and the development of breasts; girls report growth of facial hair, a deepened voice, and changes in their menstrual cycle.”

Dr. Linn Goldberg, head of the division of health promotion and sports medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU) in Portland, Ore., said in an article on WebMD that one-third of teens who use steroids are not involved in interscholastic sports.

Boys in particular are already aware of the dangers associated with steroid abuse, Goldberg told WebMD. “But males are risk-takers,” he said, and the temptation of steroids is too much to resist for some of them.

According to the Times, boys as young as 10 are also bulking up with legal derivatives of steroids like androstenedione—known as steroid precursors.

“Sales of legal, largely unregulated steroid precursors like andro have soared among the young, according to recent Congressional testimony by doctors and officials in the supplement industry, prompting a move in Congress to have them treated as illegal drugs when they are not prescribed,” the Times reported. “These precursors, which metabolize into steroids once ingested, are perhaps the main reason why sports nutrition supplements are the largest-growing segment of the $18 billion dietary supplement industry.”

The catch: Steroid precursors can have the same side effects as their illegal counterparts.

Because androstenedione is an androgen, it can elicit harmful effects in humans when present in excess, according to a study done by Rice University. The NCAA and NFL ban the use of androstenedione. But the NBA, MLB and NHL do not, Rice reported in its study.

Androstenedione is available over the counter, but prohibited for use by anyone under the age of 18, the Times reported. However, as in cases of underage drinking and smoking, age limitations must be enforced.

Rep. John E. Sweeney, R-N.Y., and Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., recently sponsored a bill that would make over-the-counter sales of steroid precursors illegal. Pediatricians support the move by Congress, according to the Times. In congressional testimony last summer, pediatricians said “they did not distinguish between illegal steroids and legal precursors.”

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.

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