By Michael Hill
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids survey results surprise Sen. Richard Codey.
“What they show is really stunning,” he said.
Codey authored the New Jersey law for high school coaches to educate and warn athletes about the dangers of doping.
“In the long run it has incredible effects on your health, all negative,” Codey said.
The confidential survey of 3,700 high schoolers seems to show a truism: youth is wasted on the young.
Eleven percent of students reported using synthetic human growth hormone or HGH at least once. In four previous studies that number was 5 percent.
The study also found 9 percent of girls tried synthetic HGH and 12 percent of boys.
Overall, teens reported use of steroids went up from 5 percent to 7 percent.
“I think it’s more a reflection of the competitiveness that we embrace,” said Dr. David Bleich.
Bleich is chief of endocrinology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. He says the doping products are an easy sell for makers to teens looking for a quick fix. The products are readily available over the internet, unregulated and packed with role-of-the-dice ingredients.
“And it’s frightening and incredible,” Bleich said. “The honest truth is that we don’t really know the full risk and implication of what might happen.”
But Dr. Bleich says it is known what happens when someone has too much growth hormone in his system: increased risk of cardiovascular disease, gastro-intestinal tumors and premature death.
“There might be irreversible consequences in some instances,” he said.
Dr. Bleich was shocked to learn about teenage girls’ usage of HGH and steroids and it took him back to the 1980s when eastern bloc women athletes who looked like men because of apparent doping.
“They had very coarse, masculinized facial features. And they were big and they were enormous and so they were powerful and they would win the event. And so I think we have at least glimpses of what could happen,” said Bleich.
What to do about all of it?
“I think if we’re going to be honest and truthful we need shut it all down,” Bleich said.
Sen. Codey says parents have to act.
“They need to have conversations with their kids, frank conversations. They have to take place in the home,” he said.
As synthetic HGH and steroid use grows in popularity for teenage males and females perhaps to improve performance or appearance, they also improve their risk of causing irreparable harm.