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Study: Steroid use much higher among gay and bisexual teen boys

Monday, February 3, 2014

CHICAGO — Gay and bisexual teen boys use illicit steroids at a rate almost six times higher than do straight kids, a “dramatic disparity” that points up a need to reach out to this group, researchers say.

Reasons for the differences are unclear. The study authors said it’s possible gay and bi boys feel more pressure to achieve a bulked-up “ideal” male physique, or that they think muscle-building steroids will help them fend off bullies.

fitnessOverall, 21 percent of gay or bisexual boys said they had ever used steroids, versus 4 percent of straight boys. The difference was similar among those who reported moderate use – taking steroid pills or injections up to 40 times: 8 percent of gay or bi teens reported that amount, versus less than 2 percent of straight boys.

The heaviest use – 40 or more times – was reported by 4 percent of gays or bi boys, compared with less than 1 percent of straight teens.

The study is billed as the first to examine t he problem; previous research has found similar disparities for other substance abuse.

“It’s a bit sad that we saw such a large health disparity,” especially among the most frequent steroid users, said co-author Aaron Blashill, a psychologist and scientist with the Fenway Institute, the research arm of a Boston health center that treats gays and lesbians.

“Given the dramatic disparity … it would seem that this is a population in which greater attention is needed,” the authors said.

Their research was released Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The nationally representative study is an analysis of government surveys from 2005 and 2007. It involved 17,250 teen boys aged 16 on average; almost 4 percent – 635 boys – were gay or bisexual. Blashill said it’s likely more recent data would show the disparities persist.

Dr. Rob Garofalo, adolescent medicine chief at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, said the differences aren’t surprising, since it i s known that gay youth often have “body image issues.” But he said, “It is still shocking. These are dramatically high rates.”

The Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer update in November warning that teens and steroids are “a dangerous combo,” citing government data showing that about 5 percent of high school boys and 2 percent of high school girls use steroids – more than a half-million kids.

Steroids include synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone. Users take them to promote muscle growth, strength and endurance. Side effects can include heart and liver problems, high blood pressure, acne and aggressive behavior. With their still-maturing bodies, teens face a heightened risk for problems that may be permanent, the FDA update.

Steroids are legally available only by prescription. There are few FDA-approved uses, including replacement of hormones in men who have unusually low levels.

Potential signs of abuse include mood swings, s peedy muscle growth and even breast development in boys.

Garofalo said some of his gay and bi patients have admitted using steroids. Those patients sometimes have acne, high blood pressure, anxiety, or aggression related to steroid use, but those symptoms usually go away when the drug use stops, he said.

Kids are often less open about using steroids than about drinking or smoking marijuana, but the study helps raise awareness and the results suggest it’s a topic physicians should be raising with their patients, especially gay and bi kids, Garofalo said.

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44 more reader comments:

  1. Wtf

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:42pm
  2. Brock Nash please roid rage. Lol

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:43pm
  3. I’m having a hard time reading the article, so I’ll say this from face value… Well, since gay athletes are frowned upon in most sports, no wonder. They feel they have no real shot at the pros if they are out and proud. It’s sad.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:43pm
  4. so is this why the Twinkie population has tripled for my gay male friends and hostess is out of business?

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:44pm
  5. What happens when you are a community full of the superficial sadly…

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:44pm
  6. It’s the pressure of having a “hot” body in order to compete with all the other “hot” guys out there. Unfortunately, the gay culture is mostly about looks and sex.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:46pm
  7. And I have had it.

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:29pm
  8. I will be 50 years in April, and I've been working out very hard to get the "perfect" body. At my age, if you're single, there's even more pressure to looking good. I am afraid that I will not be able to be in a relationship again. Unfortunately, the gay culture is mostly and about youth and looks.

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:32pm
  9. Are you a part of the "gay culture"? If not, that's pretty offensive.

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:44pm
  10. So what if he isnt? Can you argue he is incorrect? I don't think it's offensive if that's what he has observed. I have plenty of gay, male friends and this seems to be pretty correct when you talk to the young, gay males. One of my friends starves himself a lot because he's chubby and feels he needs to be skinny to fit in to the image that a lot of guys have. I feel the same as a woman (pansexual) on all sides of the fence for my age, what a lot of people my age want is sex and others who have hot bodies. So why is it offensive if someone observes that in gay culture when it's true for plenty of others?

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:49pm
  11. I am gay. And I live in NYC. The gay scene here is all about looks and sex. Maybe it's different where you live. But I see this everyday at the gym. It's all looks. People really going out of their way just to look good. I am even doing this myself as I am getting older. It's reality. Unfortunately. There's even a study which found that gay young people are more prone to use steroids that straight guys. So it's offensive if I am straight but ok if I am gay. I think you might not really know what's offensive and what's not.

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:55pm
  12. I live in California, it's the same out here completely. It just seems to be what a large portion of all culture gay or straight is like now a days.

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:58pm
  13. We forget that stereotypes come from reality, just blown up out of proportion and generalized. But still, they come from real life.

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 3:00pm
  14. Youre right i always say where is the love now ??? It,s all for a moment nothing more its a sad thing in my opinion ;) Sex i can get and find any where but love real love ??? But i keep searching i dont like to go to bed with every one it,s to easy and no fun at all for me . I hope the old day,s of real love will return one day ;)

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 3:15pm
  15. I still believe in love. Ironically, NYC might not be the best city to find love, and that's where I live. I have to admit that I am a bit jaded and have lost some sense of compassion. I guess love is around, you just have to look for it. I am not sure it finds you...

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 3:21pm
  16. It's not just about how you look. If it was, I don't think I'd be on the cusp of celebrating 22 years with my spouse. I've never had a chiseled physique or a washboard stomach. But here I am, just the same. You can have all the physical attributes in the world. But none of that matters if you don't have a heart or soul to go with it.

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 3:46pm
  17. I'm actually more skeptical of observers WITHIN a culture than WITHOUT it, as they have a vested interest in declaring behaviours as natural. Since the day I came out, I have been actively fighting and resisting any messages that say I have to look a certain way to fit in. When someone said 'no-one will sleep with you if you don't lose weight, shave, dress better, etc.', I had two replies (my usual one to ugly patronizing messages, which results in gasps; and then 'I wouldn't want to sleep with anyone who thought that way').

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 3:47pm
  18. No. It's like that with most people. Americans and others outside of America focus on the physical appearance more.

    Replied on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 5:24pm
  19. Maybe if they weren’t bullied all the time for who they are, they wouldn’t be doing it. After a while you start to take more drastic, aggressive measures.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:47pm
  20. lol………DUH

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:47pm
  21. I sadly have to agree with Edgar and Abbie. Its depressing that there are so many vapid nimrods in the gay community who are about as deep as a puddle and only care about looks. Not all of us are like that, but the ones with an actual personality are few and far between it seems

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:50pm
  22. Guess they want to impress each other. Seems very vain.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:52pm
  23. There’s a whole lot of pressure, its enough that we are being force fed the idea that “straight is great”, but “skinny/buff is in” is pretty high as well, knowing that a pretty high percentage of people with either full blown Eating Disorders or EDNOS is also LGBT.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:53pm
  24. being a gay man can be like being in show business unless u resist the pressures of the culture u can become bitter for the admiration of the crowd even to the point of risky behavior

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:54pm
  25. a thought: for some maybe they don’t want to be thought of as ‘sissy boys/men’. A strong outer feature may just keep them from being harassed or even worse, attacked.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 1:55pm
  26. Well gay men have the same pression that straigh women have and is not a surprise…

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:00pm
  27. Cory, I’ll stick to my protein shakes, caffeine, and occasional croutons :) I’m also a needlephobe.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:09pm
  28. Uh they’re just now figuring this out? It’s been like this since steroids came out

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:16pm
  29. Your so right Chris, but to me the killing thing is if you ask most gay men ‘they’ll say’ oh I’m not interested in what a guy looks like I only care if he’s a good person, then they’ll go cruse some model bar ( like Houston or Dallas’s JR’s) and wait to get hit on by … Oh I don’t know… Channing tatum, the vamped hypocrisies among gay men slay me

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:46pm
  30. Steroids are EVIL & BAD

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:49pm
  31. I never use steroid. My body is just thin with bubble butt ;)

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 2:54pm
  32. And this is why the gay culture needs to change a bit.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 3:11pm
  33. I disagreew with the article about attempt to fend bullies, gay male are more into fitness and take much more care of their bodies, gay males look at themselves more in the mirror and have an obsession with beauty and are much more NARCISSISTIC, With that said Bullying has nothing to do with their use of enhancements.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 3:30pm
  34. Weird. all the gay and bi teens I see are skinny little things.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 3:45pm
  35. I am not the skinnyest person in the world and my partner is half my weight and I always feel I need to loose weight and have the perfect image or he will leave me so I think single or in a relationship all gay men and straight men are insecure about there appearance

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 3:55pm
  36. what about the person inside ??

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 3:56pm
  37. Its the gay scene, not being gay! If you are not in the scene, I am sure there is less pressure.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 4:06pm
  38. Its very sad to think that boys that age have to be in competition with each other without seeing what’s “inside” that matters….we have become such a vain society which is a tragedy in itself…I worry so about our gay youth of today!!!!

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 4:13pm
  39. Boyd’s right. The majority who do use steroids r mainly doing it to not be picked on or openly outed/targeted.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 4:16pm
  40. True that. I used in my youth outta desperation to fit in. Hope the next generation doesn’t have to go through what I did. I’m gonna do my part to help make sure it gets better not worse. I wish I woulda used RX estrogen instead of street tes. But better late than never…

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 4:20pm
  41. I wish that physical insecurities weren’t so predominate among gay men, especially gay youth. I’ve struggled with how I look, but have never nor will I ever use steroids. Or any other harmful drug for that matter. I’m not thin. I’m hairier than a wolf. Many gay men seem to find both of those things unattractive. But it is what it is, and I’ve grown to be perfectly comfortable in my body. Plus, discovering the “bear” community helped. Haha. Anyway, I too, wish that vanity wasn’t placed on a pedestal like this.

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 4:26pm
  42. What about lesbians v. straight women?

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 4:54pm
  43. Says who?

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 5:10pm
  44. Who did they ask? What teen would give up this info?

    Posted on Monday, February 3, 2014 at 5:23pm