Experts in Washington D.C. Examine the Steroid Epidemic
The Taylor Hooton Foundation hosted a forum in Washington, D.C. on April 27 to address the urgent need for progress in research, diagnosis and treatment of users of anabolic steroids, dietary supplements, and other Appearance and Performance Enhancing Substances. A number of the world’s experts on this topic gathered at the National Press Club to discuss this problem and the steps that need to be taken to address this issue.
To structure the conversations at this forum we broke up speakers into three distinct categories. They were: Scope of the Problem, Medical Consequences, and Education. These topics served as the pillars of our discussion to focus our efforts around solutions for this huge issue that’s already a public health concern around the nation.
Scope of the Problem
In the United States today, many people write off the issue of appearance and performance enhancing substances as something only professional athletes deal with. The fact is as many as 80% of the people using anabolic steroids; dietary supplements and other substances are doing so to improve their body image. They’re not athletes at all.
Most Americans are familiar with the terms anorexia and bulimia and recognize these conditions as the product of a female’s obsession with their perceived body image. Few people, however, are familiar with the term, bigorexia. Bigorexia refers to the males’ obsessive desire with muscularity and leanness. Men who suffer from bigorexia are highly engaged in weight lifting and bodybuilding. They are very likely to use performance enhancing substances and especially anabolic steroids.
Over 4 million people in the United States are using anabolic steroids and even more are using other appearance and performance enhancing substances. Even 7% of high school students admit to using anabolic steroids! Sadly, the numbers are only growing and usage as reached epidemic levels. Our statistics don’t even include people who are unknowingly ingesting steroids through unregulated dietary supplements that are often spiked with harmful substances.
This forum of experts in Washington D.C. have determined that 20-25% of dietary supplements are spiked with either anabolic steroids or other harmful substances. The Department of Defense (DoD) tested 179 supplements and a resounding 49.2% were positive for steroids.
The medical risks and consequences of using anabolic steroids and other appearance and performance enhancing substances are not clear to young teens and can often be unclear to trained medical physicians. To increase our understanding of the medical consequences we invited Dr. Shalender Bhasin of Harvard, Dr. Harrison Pope of Harvard and Dr. Tom Hildebrandt of Mt. Sanai Hospital to present the findings from their extensive work.
What we learned is that these substances are no doubt dangerous and can be life threatening under certain circumstances. Alarmingly, there are no protocols for doctors to use in order to treat users of anabolic steroids. This means that when an American walks into their physician’s office showing symptoms of this substance use, these doctors have not been trained to recognize, diagnose or treat these maladies. It remains one of the most neglected public health issues.
Truth be told, education is the only tool in our arsenal to effectively combat this issue right now. In the entire United States there are only 4 organizations providing any type of education on this topic.
- Center for Drug Free Sport: Educating collegiate athletes
- USADA: Educating Olympic athletes
- American Academy of Pediatrics: provides an eLearning program to pediatricians
- Taylor Hooton Foundation: Educating America’s youth and their adult influencers
- Have reached more than 1 million youth, coaches, and parents.
The problem is these organizations are not able to reach all of the people that need to be educated about the dangers of appearance and performance enhancing substances. 85% of young people have never had a coach, parent or teacher talk to them about the risks appearance and performance enhancing drugs.
Education is the key to successfully deterring usage, as prevention is the best solution. Many young students are getting their workout tips and education about these substances from strangers at the local gym. We must combat this misinformation with credible facts and resources! We also need to move beyond our mindset that this is a problem with only athletes. The research shows that the majority of these substances are being used because of body image issues. So we must begin educating our children in high schools and even middle schools.
If you want to learn more about the Taylor Hooton Foundation’s education programs to educate and train your organization click here.
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