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Trends in Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Use Among Adolescents

Charles E. Yesalis, MPH, ScD; Camille K. Barsukiewicz, MS; Andrea N. Kopstein, MPH; Michael S. Bahrke, PhD
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151(12):1197-1206. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1997.02170490023005.
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Objective:  To examine the trends in anabolic steroid use among adolescents in the United States between 1988 and 1996.

Design:  Computerized and manual literature searches were performed, and the resultant local, state, and national cross-sectional surveys of illicit anabolic steroid use by adolescents were reviewed. Trends in steroid use were evaluated using state and national studies administered in multiple periods. Various sampling procedures were employed, and all surveys used anonymous questionnaires. The national studies used for this analysis included the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study, the national component of the Youth Risk and Behavior Surveillance System, and the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

Setting:  Most of the surveys described were self-administered in school classrooms. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse was administered in the respondent's home.

Participants:  Most survey respondents were junior high and high school male and female students aged 12 to 18 years.

Results:  Individual state studies (ie, a single point in time) provide evidence of continued steroid use throughout the United States despite educational and legal interventions. The findings of multiyear state-level studies show a decrease in lifetime steroid use rates between 1988 and 1994 for male and female adolescents, although no tests of statistical significance were conducted. At the national level, a significant decline (P<.01) in lifetime steroid use has taken place from 1989 to 1996 for male and female students (MTF data). However, since 1991, lifetime steroid use by male students, as measured by 2 of the 3 national surveys, has been generally stable. The third survey, MTF, shows a significant decrease (P<.05) in use from 1991 to 1996. Likewise, from 1991-1996 use of anabolic steroids during the past year (MTF data) was stable for 10th and 12th grade males; use among eighth grade males decreased significantly (P<.01). Since 1991, data from the 3 national surveys indicate an increase in lifetime anabolic steroid use among adolescent females, although only 1 of these increases is statistically significant. Furthermore, past year use of steroids (MTF data) increased for females in the 8th (P<.05), 10th (P<.05), and 12th (ns) grades.

Conclusions:  A long-term comparison of anabolic steroid use (from 1989-1996) indicates that use among adolescent males and females has decreased significantly (P<.05). However, for females the low point in lifetime steroid use was reached in 1991, with subsequent significant (P<.05) increases in use being reported in several national data sets. For adolescent males, after declining sharply between 1989 and 1991, steroid use has generally been stable since 1991. Moreover, based on the 1995 estimates of high school students and Youth Risk and Behavior Surveillance System data, approximately 375 000 adolescent males and 175 000 adolescent females in public and private schools in the United States used anabolic steroids at least once in their lives. These results suggest that prevention, intervention, and regulatory efforts to reduce steroid use at the local, state, and national levels should be reassessed, especially those efforts that focus on adolescent female steroid use.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:1197-1206


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