How big is the youth APED problem? Vol. 1
Market research shows that few adults are aware of the scope of the youth anabolic steroid problem. Most believe that steroid use is limited to professional athletes. Few are aware that so many of our high school and college students are actively using Appearance and Performance Enhancing Drugs (APEDs) like anabolic steroids and other similar drugs.
Steroid Usage by the Numbers
Before I focus on youth usage rates, let’s examine APED usage in the overall population. According to Renal and Urological News (June 2016), about 4 million people in the US use anabolic steroids. They go on to point out that a quarter of these users are drug-dependent. With so many people using these illegal drugs, we should not be surprised to learn that many of our young people are participating in this behavior.
The most recent numbers available to us come from a study conducted by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. PDFK published the results of their 2014 national survey and concluded that 7% of high school students ADMIT to using anabolic steroids. This follows a 2012 study conducted by the University of Minnesota that put the number of boys using at 5.6% and the number of girls at 4.6%.
7% of high school students. What does that number mean to you and me? There are approximately 17 million high school students nationally. Do the math. This means that about 1.2 million of our children admit to using these illegal drugs. But, to most people that number doesn’t have any real meaning, so let’s apply the percentages to a typical high school.
Here in North Texas, a typical high school has a population of about 2,000 students. If 7% of those students are using anabolic steroids, which means that there are 140 students in each high school that are using steroids! That’s more than one student in every classroom. Take a moment and apply the numbers to your child’s high school population.
“Not in This High School”
Of course, local school officials are quick to assert that APED use is not going on in “this high school”. At this point, I ask these officials, “how do you know that your students aren’t using these drugs?” Do they think the kids are going to tell them that they are using? Do they inject their drugs out in the open so that school officials can see them using? The truth is that without a REAL anabolic steroid testing program, there is no way for school officials to know whether their students are using.
Note: Very few schools test their students for anabolic steroids. For those few schools that do, their testing regimen is so weak that it is rare that they are able to detect a person that is using. We’ll explore this issue specifically in an upcoming blog post.
Another question I like to ask school officials when I present to groups of principals, athletic directors, and others is, “we have over one million children in the US using anabolic steroids. What programs have you implemented in your school that has caused this epidemic to miss your kids?” To date, I’ve never had a school official step forward and share with me what they are doing to actively to combat this problem. I have much more data to present to quantify the scope of the youth APED problem that we will explore in future blog posts. Stay tuned.
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