Teenagers and "Juicing"

By Sarah Beller 11/19/12

A preoccupation with "muscle-enhancing" is causing more young people to abuse supplements and steroids.

Those muscles may come at a price.
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An increasing preoccupation with "muscle-enhancing behaviors" (or "juicing" as it has been coined on MTV's Jersey Shore) is leading young people to abuse potentially risky protein supplements and illegal steroids, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. The researchers studied the behavior of 2793 diverse adolescents from 20 urban middle and high schools and found that 38% of boys said they used protein supplements, and nearly 6% said they had experimented with steroids. Among girls, 21% used protein supplements and nearly 5% used steroids. “The problem with supplements is they’re not regulated like drugs, so it’s very hard to know what’s in them,” says Dr. Shalender Bhasin, a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, in a New York Times article addressing the issue. “These things just haven’t been studied very well.” Even high-quality protein supplements might be dangerous in large amounts, or if taken to replace meals, Bhasin notes. Some even contain anabolic steroids, which pose a special danger to developing bodies; and they “stop testosterone production” which can cause growing bodies to go into withdrawal if they try to stop taking them. David Abusheikh, an 18-year-old high school student, says he takes supplements to help him build muscle, without gaining fat, and because “I wanted something that would help me get bigger a little faster.” It's no secret that men and boys are not immune to eating disorders and body image dysmorphia: approximately 10% of the estimated eight million Americans who suffer from eating disorders are male.

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Sarah Beller is a writer and the Executive Director at Filter. She has written about drug policy with a focus on harm reduction for Substance.comThe Fix and Salon. She has worked as a social worker with formerly incarcerated people in New York for a number of years. Her writing has also appeared in McSweeney’sThe HairpinThe ToastReductressThe Rumpus and other publications. You can find Sarah on Linkedin and Twitter.