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AAS Use in Teens & Young Adults
Join Date: Apr 2009
AAS Use in Teens & Young Adults - 02-11-2012, 02:21 PM
Children and anabolic steroid use
The purpose of this article is to provide a resource for those who are under 21 or those who know someone who is under 21 that is contemplating the use of anabolic androgenic steroids. All drugs use and certainly abuse is associated with health risks and AAS are not an exception to this rule. Certainly adults take health risks when using these compound and these are fairly well known. Here I am referring to cardiovascular, endocrine, acute behavioral changes, hypertension and associated health risks and organ damage. Often times we forget or chose to ignore these realities but make no mistake. These risks do exist and are increased with increased dosage regimes and duration of use. However, this article focuses on the special risks that our youth is subjected to with AAS use.
What are the risks to children, teens and young adults who use these compounds? There are three major areas of risk where these groups are of special concern. These are: 1) bone development; 2) endocrine and; 3) central nervous system development. While the endocrine and the CNS are also affected in adults these systems along with bone can be permanently damaged in children teens and young adults because these systems are still undergoing developmental processing and steroid hormones play an active role in these maturation processes.
The long bones grow from the epipheseal centers at the ends.In these regions cartilaginous matrix proteins are synthesized and ossified and this provides added length. This has to do with a complex interplay between chondrocyctes, osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Along with other medulary cell types these cells perform a highly regulated developmental dance that so elegantly provides adult height and girth to the long bones and overall skeletal system. In boys when puberty occurs 5 alpha reductase synthesis increases as does overall testosterone levels. Estrogen level increase proportionately with the other sex steroids. The androgens and estrogens provide cues to the skeletal system, and especially the long bone epipheseal centers to produce bone at an increased rate. This is self limiting as the sex steroids cause ossification of these centers. Once ossified, or hardened into bone, the long bones can no longer extend in length. When anabolic androgenic steroids are used epipheseal center ossification occurs prematurely and the height one was to be is lost. This loss can be significant. One wonders if this may in part explain why so many bodybuilders are of short stature especially in the competitive ranks.
With regard to the endocrine system prior to puberty neurological development in the hypothalamus and pituitary is morphologically distinct from the adult counterpart. During puberty sex steroids increases and they, along with other developmental queues potentiate progressive tissue differentiation that results in the fully developed adult hypothalamus and pituitary. This process is highly regulated and must occur with sex steroids within a normal developing adolescence range. When these signals are altered as in the use of high dose synthetic anabolic steroids (including testosterone esters) there is disregulation of these processes. This results in dismorphic development which is accompanied by disfunction. It is possible if not likely that the disfunction will be permanent as the tissue has not developed properly.
Central Nervous System
The central nervous system is the third area affected by AAS abuse in teens and early adults. The majority of research that has been performed has centered on regions of the hypothalamus that govern sex specific behavior and aggression. In this region there are critical developmental processes that govern the interplay between the arginine vasopressin (AVP) and serotonin (5HT) neural systems. The AVP system enhances aggressive behavior and the 5HT system reduces aggressive behavior. When androgens are too high there is an increase in AVP and in adolescence and young adults where these systems are undergoing a plastic growth and differentiation progression some of these morphological changes can be long lasting and even permanent. Most of this work has been done in rodent models but in recent years these changes have been linked to brain development in man.
Bizarre Accounts and Anecdotal Evidence
Internet forums and websites are odd outposts for fringe behavior and bodybuilding websites are no exception. When it comes to teen use I have witnessed strange, sustained and even startling behavior over the course of several years. Children and young adults are often not equipped for the downside of AAS use and abuse. I have seen countless bizarre statements form young users like “I feel hollow inside” or “I cut myself and it’s the only thing that helps”. Many can not come off the drugs for fear of losing their entire persona since their young ego is completely based on their enhanced physique. Once these people do come off the steroids often the endocrine system does not recover or the individual that may be able to recover can not abstain long enough for the normal hormonal pattern to reestablish itself. Even those that do return to normal more often than not return to the same steroids and repeat the entire roller coaster ride of emotional and physical ups and downs. In recent years it seems the rare case to observe a man in his late teens or even 20 or 21 that observes “safe” AAS practice: that is, truly cycling on and off with periods of abstinence sufficient enough to reestablish normal hormone patterning, physical well being and fitness. This is even a challenge in well adjusted adults.
Why are teen users doomed to fail?
Bodybuilding is more than the consumption of a magic drug cocktail. There are three major components to building a superior physique. These are proper training, diet and rest. The rest is time and observation. Over time the proper foods training and rest periods are adjusted sufficiently to yield sustained growth and improvement. This takes time. Arguably this should take on the order of 5 to 7 years to find one’s individual fit. It takes that long to build a solid base. I am not referring to the physique per say. I am referring to the knowledge base that leads to success in addition to the physique the later of which is the proof of the successful knowledge in training, nutrition and rest plus the patience to apply it over time with consistency enough to realize significant gains in physique quality. Use in the teen years completely negates these concepts. There is no time to develop these concepts nor time enough to accrue the physique quality to prove proficiency. The teen attempts to avoid the hard work that this entails and rushed to the perceived shortcut of AAS.
Where does this shortcut lead?
Without the base there is no grounding for true improvement. Results may come but are temporary and sub par. The teen continues to look to magic elixirs for continued improvement without understanding that the foundation is non-existent. The physique is built on sand and once the wind blows, aka the steroids removed, the physique is gone. To sooth the ego the steroids are resumed. Often the drug regimen continues to expand to other compounds and combinations that even professional bodybuilder would cringe at. Growth hormone, insulin, DNP, and growth activating peptides are added and in ever increasing doses. Always the rational is that the magic elixir will move the improvement forward. Yet again the foundation is lacking.
Looking forward is there a proper way to use AAS?
This is a moral question. Does anyone really have the right to alter his body with the use of powerful drugs? It could be argued that yes, in a libertarian world, adults should be allowed to do with their bodies what they please. If this is true then certainly there are better ways to use AAS than to use in the teen and early adult years. First and foremost a strong natural base should be built. That is learning one’s body to understand the rest, nutrition and training required to build and refine the physique. This should include adding lean tissue without unnecessary fat tissue and proper dieting to lean out enough to retain lean tissue and observe the true gains at lower body fat. In building the strong base the ego always has a place to return to without driving its owner to self destruction. Only in rare cases does AAS enhancement so damage a body that it can not, at minimum, reclaim its base.
It can be reasonably assumed that a base will take on average 5-7 years to establish. If training is begun at 17 this would place the minimal start date for enhancement at 22 to 24 years of age. This age will probably place most individuals safely past the age where skeletal, endocrine and CNS systems are most at risk. From this point careful use, if any, could ensue. Proper cycling is where the enhancement period is followed by enough time to allow the body to reclaim, normal endocrine patterns, health and fitness. It may also be pertinent to iterate that the adult can more readily tolerate use and even abuse than the teen or young adult. After many years on and off AAS I can say with some authority, enter the enhancement world at your own risk but at least allow yourself proper maturity in mind, age and body first and also build a strong base.