Exploring The Involvement Of PEDs In High School Sports


PEDs or performance-enhancing drugs are showing up in all levels of sports. The 2009 major league baseball-doping bust was one of the biggest of all times. The news broke with Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez, New York Yankees third baseman admitted to using PEDs in 2000. The organization suspended A-Rod, but unfortunately it was not enough to deter him from doping again. The incident was relived in 2009, when MLB suspended Rodriguez again, along with 12 other players for doping. Of course, Rodriguez denied these allegations and appealed his suspension.


Prince George's County Maryland EPO Abuse


At one time, PEDs were only utilized in professional sporting organizations, but it finally made its way to college and high school sports. According to a 2015 study conducted by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) that involved 44,892 students in grades 8 thru 12. These students were scattered throughout 382 private and public schools. The Monitoring the Future Study results were astonishing:


  • 8th Graders – 1% admitted to utilizing anabolic steroids at least once in their lifetime, 0.50% within the past year, and 0.30% within the last month
  • 10th Graders – 1.20% admitted to utilizing anabolic steroids at least once in their lifetime, 0.70% with the past year, and 0.40% within the last month
  • 12th Graders – 2.30% admitted to utilizing anabolic steroids at least once in their lifetime, 1.70% within the past year, and 1% within the last month

A follow-up showed that these numbers remained stable, while tobacco, prescription opioids, alcohol, and synthetic cannabinoids gradually decreased.

What Maryland Parents Need To Know About Performance-Enhancing Drugs

High school athletes receive pressure from all angles to perform. This, along with the influence that professional athletes have on adolescents, it is no wonder that they turn to PEDs. When comparing PED use to illicit drug use, there truly is no comparison, because PED use is not nearly as prevalent, but the numbers continue to gradually scale higher.

PEDs include anabolic steroids, human growth hormones, diuretics, creatine, stimulates, erythropoietin, and androstenedione. Not all of these drugs require a prescription, but they are banned by most professional sporting organizations. Anabolic steroids are very effective in increasing the production of testosterone, a male hormone that is responsible for regulating libido, RBC and sperm production, muscle mass, bone mass, and fat distribution. Anabolic steroids are classified as Schedule III Controlled Substances, so they cannot be obtained legally without a written prescription.

Believe it or not, adolescents can obtain any of these PEDs online or from street dealers, and the black market. Since these substances are not manufactured in a facility regulated by the FDA, they may contain some very dangerous chemicals or other toxic ingredients. Other forms of steroids often misused include cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone, but they do not offer the same potent effects as testosterone.

Warning Signs That Parents Need To Be On The Lookout For!

The primary warning signs of anabolic steroid abuse are mood swings, followed by acne and a surprising gain in muscle mass. PEDs are very dangerous and have been linked to the following medical disorders:

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Hyperlipidemia (high LDL blood cholesterol levels)
  • Enlarged heart
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Cerebrovascular accident (stroke)
  • Renal disorders or chronic renal failure
  • Hepatic disease
  • Abnormal breast growth (males)
  • Testicle shrinkage
  • Prostate cancer
  • Alopecia (baldness)
  • Alterations in the menstrual cycle
  • Clitoris enlargement
  • Facial hair growth (females)
  • Stunted growth and puberty

Erythropoietin (EPO) Explained In Depth

Erythropoietin is another type of PED, but it is more often utilized in extreme sports such as football, track and field, swimming, and cycling. Of course, it is not unusual to find it on a lower tier such as college football. Erythropoietin is a very important hormone, produced by the kidneys. It is primarily responsible for the production of red blood cells. RBCs are made up hemoglobin, which a protein that carries oxygen to cells throughout the body and CO2 to the lungs.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy and those diagnosed with anemia (low blood cell count) are often prescribed erythropoietin-stimulating agents (ESAs), whenever possible. The normal RBC range in males is 4.7-6.1 cells/mcL and females 4.2-5.4 cells/mcL. Epoetin Alfa (Epogen) and Darbepoietin Alfa are the only ESAs available on the U.S. market.

EPO abuse has become so prominent among professional athletes that USADA and WADA had to take additional steps to combat it. A sudden increase in the RBC mass will allow the body to transport more oxygen to the muscular system, eventually enhancing stamina and performance levels way beyond the norm. There are many dangers of EPO abuse including:

  • Cerebrovascular accident
  • Blood thickening or thrombosis (blood clots)
  • Pulmonary and cerebral embolism
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Myocardial infarction

EPO Minor Side Effects

  • Abdominal pain and nausea
  • Muscle aches and weakness
  • Chills or shivering, with or without sweating
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Vertigo (dizziness)
  • Generalized fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Abnormal weight loss
  • Neuropathic pain

EPO Major Side Effects

  • Angina (chest pain)
  • Headache (sudden headache)
  • Hypertension
  • Dyspnea
  • Abnormal weight gain
  • Facial, upper and lower extremity edema
  • Anxiety
  • Diplopia (double vision), blurry vision, or temporary blindness
  • Syncope
  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)
  • Hives or pale skin
  • Diaphoresis (sweating)
  • Loss of coordination (sudden onset)
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Unusual bleeding or bruising
  • Hemiparesis (unilateral paresis)

As a parent, it is your responsibility to discuss substance abuse with your children. Prevention is definitely much simpler than drug addiction treatment. The drug prevention process should begin at the same time as those puberty discussions. These discussions should begin before your child enters preschool or kindergarten and not stop until the child becomes an adult. It is also very important for parents to be role models for their children. Parenting is difficult, but keeping a positive attitude, setting positive examples, and keeping the dialogue open will render positive results.

If you are a resident of Prince George’s County, Maryland you can visit the Network of Care (see below for link) website. Here, you will find a list of mental and behavioral health services available to children, adolescents, and adults. As soon as the warning signs are detected, parents should take immediate action to get help for their children.

Prince George’s County Network of Care: http://princegeorges.md.networkofcare.org/mh/services/subcategory.aspx?tax=RX-8450.8000

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