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Dangerous Trend: HGH Use on the Rise Among High School Athletes

Bigger, faster, stronger—these are just some of the words used to describe today’s modern athlete. From football players to all-star baseball pitchers, athletes are now bigger in size, strength and stature than ever before. They’re running faster, hitting harder and throwing farther, making sports at every level all the more competitive.

At the professional level of sports, many star athletes—from Alex Rodriguez to Lance Armstrong—have admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids, amphetamines and other illegal substances. But one drug in particular has become increasingly popular in recent years among all types of athletes—human growth hormone, or HGH. Despite being banned by Major League Baseball, the National Football League and the World Anti-Doping Agency, HGH use has become a serious problem in many sports, including baseball, football, cycling and track and field.

And it’s not just at the professional athletes who are using it.

HGH Use on the Rise Among High School Athletes

While we may only hear about HGH use in professional sports, it’s now becoming more and more common among high school athletes. That’s right—teens between the ages of 14 and 18 are gaining access to a drug that can be very harmful to their bodies, and they may not even realize just how harmful it really is.

A new survey released by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids found that HGH use among America’s teens has more than doubled in the past year alone. Of the 3,700 high school students surveyed, nearly 11 percent said that they had taken HGH at least once. In the previous four years, that number was only five percent.

And it’s not just boys who are using it either. The survey also found that female athletes are starting to take it too. Compared to the 12 percent of boys who said they had tried HGH, nine percent of girls admitted to using it as well.

Why Are High School Athletes Using HGH?

Human growth hormone is used by athletes for a variety of reasons. Also known as gonadotropin, HGH is a synthetic, or artificially-produced, drug that has an anabolic effect, meaning it promotes muscle-building. Because of these effects, athletes will use HGH to improve their strength and endurance in order to gain a competitive edge.

Not only are athletes taking HGH to improve their performance, but they’re using it to enhance their appearance as well. With this particular drug, it’s not just about becoming a better athlete—it’s about how you look and feel too. Since HGH promotes muscle-building, male athletes may be taking it to increase their muscle mass, while girls may be using it to look thinner and more toned.

Why is HGH Dangerous?

Did you know that our bodies naturally produce human growth hormone? It’s true. This hormone is a small protein that is made by our pituitary gland and released into our bloodstream. It helps our bodies do a number of different things—but once we start taking it externally through injections, our body stops producing it. Not only that, but synthetic HGH can lead to some serious health risks and negative consequences, including:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fluid retention
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Heart problems
  • Diabetes

While it may seem pointless to mature adults to put our health at risk for the sake of short-term benefits, teenagers often don’t fully consider the long-term consequences.

How Are High School Athletes Obtaining HGH?

While it may be hard to believe, the unfortunate reality is that it’s all too easy for teenagers to get access to HGH. For example, one of the most common ways to get it is by doing a simple Internet search. There are dozens upon dozens of websites that illegally sell HGH, regardless of a person’s age. In fact, a simple search for the term will yield page after page of ways for a person of any age to get their hands on HGH.

It’s also possible that teens are purchasing it through friends or acquaintances who have access to it, or they may even meet someone at the local gym who sells it for a low cost.

But it’s even more common for young athletes to get HGH through supplements—and sometimes, they may not even realize it. More often than not, we have no idea what’s really in the supplements we’re taking, which is why it’s so important for us, as parents, to know what our kids are putting into their bodies. We have to monitor it. We have to be stringent about it.

Believe it or not, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate supplements, so it’s hard to know exactly what our kids are taking. There are many different names for steroids and performance-enhancing drugs, so we need to make sure we’re thoroughly evaluating each supplement and making sure it comes from a reputable source. If you’d like to learn more about what’s in the supplements your teen is taking, visit the Office of Dietary Supplements website.

How Can I Make Sure My Son or Daughter Isn’t Taking HGH?

Not only is it important to be aware of what our kids are taking, but we have to communicate with them as well. All too often, parents and coaches don’t think that their child or player is taking HGH, but it’s important to recognize that it is a possibility.

If your son or daughter plays a sport, set aside the time to talk to them and make sure they understand the dangers of using performance-enhancing drugs. Taking HGH is a health risk. It’s a safety issue. These substances are not only illegal, but they can cause long-term health issues. We have to educate our kids about these risks so that they can protect their health and their future.

To learn more about HGH use among high school athletes, visit the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids website.