What can parents do to stop use of performance-enhancing drugs?

You can take various steps to prevent your teen from using performance-enhancing drugs or supplements. For example:

  • Discuss ethics and proper training. Remind your teen that using a performance-enhancing drug is similar to cheating and, more importantly, could lead to serious health problems. Explain that a healthy diet and rigorous training are the true keys to athletic performance.
  • Be clear about your expectations. Tell your teen that you expect him or her to avoid performance-enhancing drugs. Set rules and explain the consequences of breaking them. For example, if your teen uses performance-enhancing drugs, he or she has to quit the team.
  • Get involved. Attend games and practices. Encourage your teen's coaches, school and sports organizations to discourage the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Reassure your teen of your love and support, regardless of his or her competitive performance.
  • Monitor your teen's purchases. Check the ingredients of any over-the-counter products your teen uses. Watch for performance-enhancing drug paraphernalia, such as vials, resealable plastic bags and hypodermic needles.

What are the warning signs of performance-enhancing drug use?

Possible red flags include:

  • Behavioral, emotional or psychological changes — particularly increased aggressiveness ("roid rage")
  • Changes in body build, including muscle growth, rapid weight gain and development of the upper body
  • Increased acne and facial bloating
  • Needle marks in the buttocks or thighs
  • Enlarged breasts in boys or smaller breasts in girls

What help is available for teens who take performance-enhancing drugs?

If you suspect that your teen is using performance-enhancing drugs, talk to him or her. Encourage your teen to be honest with you.

If your teen admits to using performance-enhancing drugs, encourage him or her to stop immediately and offer a reminder of the health risks. Make an appointment for your teen to see his or her doctor for a medical evaluation and counseling.

Consider informing your teen's coach, so he or she is aware of the problem. In addition, be sure to tell your teen that you're disappointed and enforce the consequences that you've established — such as quitting the team. Most importantly, emphasize the healthy alternatives to achieving his or her goals.

Don't put off talking with your teen about performance-enhancing drugs. Help your teen understand the risks, as well as healthier ways to support athletic performance and a good body image.

Aug. 22, 2013 See more In-depth