Don’t be a dope

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION -

It’s a fan­tasy of most young males — the per­fect beach physique. We’re talk­ing ripped abs and bulging bi­ceps, thick shoul­ders and a pow­er­ful chest. You want the girls to take a sec­ond look. You want your peers feel­ing en­vi­ous and un­wor­thy.

For most, such a physique is just that — a fan­tasy. Not ev­ery­one has the com­mit­ment, time, en­ergy or ge­net­ics to trans­form them­selves into a mus­cle­man.

Some, how­ever, look for short­cuts, and they turn to syn­thetic hor­mones sim­i­lar to the male sex hor­mone, testos­terone. Yes, an­abolic steroids.

These drugs have valu­able uses in the med­i­cal com­mu­nity, and are rou­tinely used to treat dis­eases such as can­cer and AIDS.

But for many young men, the cos­metic ben­e­fits of steroids are too ir­re­sistible to re­sist, and they ac­quire them from deal­ers who traf­fic il­licit drugs.

Just re­cently, we dis­cov­ered this is not just an is­sue con­fined to large cities. A com­mu­nity leader in our re­gion con­tacted The Com­pass to raise con­cerns about what this per­son de­scribed as a “high use of steroids” in the area, and sug­gested the prob­lem was ev­i­dent in a lo­cal high school, where “en­hance­ments have al­tered the stu­dents’ mood, in­creased ag­gres­sion, re­sulted in loss of at­ten­tion and fo­cus of stu­dents dur­ing school ac­tiv­i­ties.”

The RCMP con­firmed they have “iden­ti­fied in­di­vid­u­als be­lieved to be re­spon­si­ble in the traf­fick­ing of steroids,” and an in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing. A school ad­min­is­tra­tor in Car­bon­ear said con­cerns have been raised that “some teens may be ex­per­i­ment­ing with il­le­gal steroids,” though he said there is no con­crete proof.

These are all very trou­bling rev­e­la­tions, and we should all stand up and take no­tice.

Here’s why steroids are so ap­peal­ing. They en­hance the growth of mus­cle mass, and a se­ri­ous user can quickly bulk up, adding any­where from five to 10 kilo­grams of weight in a span of six to 12 weeks.

But like with most drugs, there can be ad­verse ef­fects, the most com­mon be­ing el­e­vated blood pres­sure, and harm­ful changes in choles­terol lev­els. There’s also a risk of liver and kid­ney dam­age, and some ex­perts say an­abolic steroids in­crease the risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease or coro­nary artery dis­ease.

One of the most vis­i­ble signs of steroid use is se­vere acne, and some stud­ies have shown that users be­come more ag­gres­sive and vi­o­lent. An oh yes, and there are some “man­hood” is­sues that come with steroid use.

Steroids first caught the at­ten­tion of the world­wide me­dia in the 1980s.

We’ve all heard about the scan­dals at the top ranks of pro­fes­sional and am­a­teur sports, in­clud­ing the Ben John­son dop­ing scan­dal. John­son was a Cana­dian hero, rack­ing up record af­ter record in the 100-me­tre sprint, in­clud­ing win­ning two Olympic bronze medals and an Olympic gold.

But he lost it all af­ter it was re­vealed he was us­ing steroids, which en­hanced his per­for­mance.

Ev­ery ma­jor sport­ing body in the world pro­hibits the use of steroids. In Canada, as in most coun­tries, it is il­le­gal to ob­tain or sell them with­out a pre­scrip­tion.

But ex­perts say only about half of those who use steroids are ath­letes. The re­main­der are look­ing for that “cut” look, and over­look or ig­nore what med­i­cal of­fi­cials de­scribe as “se­ri­ous health con­se­quences.”

In light of all this, we have to ask if the ben­e­fits of bulk­ing up are worth the risks? And we also won­der if there is enough aware­ness among young peo­ple about the dan­gers. Per­haps it’s time for a lit­tle strong-arm­ing when it comes to pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.

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