Performance enhancing substance usage among teens

It is important to know the severe side effects of performance enhancing substances.

“Teens are taking dangerous risks with their health by using performance enhancing substances” says a report by Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. The report is based on results of the national Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) that surveyed 3,700 teens. The study results report that the number of teens in grades 9-12 who reported “ever having used” synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) has doubled from five percent in 2012 to 11 percent. This high increase in percentage indicates that youth are expressing more interest in performance enhancing substances.

HGH is a naturally occurring hormone in the body. It stimulates growth and cell production in children and adolescent and also regulates muscle and bone growth. Synthetic HGH, available since 1985 is approved as a treatment to certain medical conditions; however, any off-label use is prohibited. Illegal use of HGH is intended to enhance athletic performance and appearance. Even though the synthetic HGH is only available with a prescription in the United States, teens have access to it by buying it online from international websites.

According to WebMD, HGH may have many side effects including:

  • Nerve, muscle or joint pain
  • Swelling due to fluid in the body's tissues (edema)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Numbness and tingling of the skin
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Can also increase the risk of diabetes and contribute to the growth of cancerous tumors

Experts are urging parents to talk openly about the dangers of illegal uses of HGH and performance-enhancing drugs in general. Michigan State University Extension provides resources on discussing difficult subjects with teens, such as drugs through their family programs. For more information visit

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