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Anabolic Steroids: Your Child's Road to the Gold or to the Grave?

Warning signs

Is your child using steroids? Here is what to look for:

  • Large gain of muscle mass over a short period of time (20lbs. of muscle gained over a summer by a high school athlete is usually not the result of weight training alone).
  • Increased time spent in the gym and a preoccupation with weight training
  • Dramatic changes in personality (moodiness, aggression, and hostility etc.)
  • Abnormally large breasts in males (gynecomastia)
  • Stretch marks (cultaneous striae), especially around the breast area
  • Increased acne, especially on the back, face, and chest
  • Facial puffiness due to water retention
  • Needle marks on the buttocks
  • Increased blood pressure and heart rate
  • Reference to steroids in conversation (some of the slang words for steroids include "roids," "juice," "sauce," "slop," "product" and "vitamins")

According to Los Angeles doctor Nick Evans, writing in The Physician and Sports Medicine, the three main warning signs are acne, gynecomastia, and cultaneous striae. The presence of all three, writes Evans, is "diagnostic of steroid use." When accompanied by needle marks or shrunken testicles, he considers steroid use certain.


Drug testing of athletes is a multi-million dollar business. Testing is performed by taking a urine sample from the athlete and can be extremely accurate if performed by a qualified lab. However, labs do not test for every steroid taken - a new steroid may come out before labs begin testing for it.

Some athletes try to beat the tests by taking diuretics (water pills) or a drug called probenicid, which decreases urine output. Both of these drugs can be detected and are banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the NCAA.

Some athletes have access to labs. They take steroids and then test themselves to see how quickly the drugs leave their bodies. In this way they can determine when to stop taking a drug in order to test negative.

How long steroids remain in a person's system is quite variable. It depends on the method of use, the length of time taken, the size of the dose and the individual's clearing ability. Generally, injectable steroids may remain detectable for 3 to 4 months while the oral types may remain for only 1 to 4 weeks.