At school they're called roids, juice, gym candy, pumpers, stackers, weight trainers or hype. They're anabolic steroids and they can hurt you.

Looking cool can be very important. Some things like cool clothes and hair styles are great. Messing with your body is not cool.

Performance enhancing drugs, like steroids, were at first used by athletes to improve their athletic abilities and provide them with an advantage in their competitive sport. However in recent years, young people, like you, have been taking these man-made substances.

Steroid use is dangerous and can lead to serious medical and psychological complications. It is important that you understand the consequences of taking steroids.

What are anabolic steroids?

Anabolic steroids are synthetic or man-made substances related to testosterone. Testosterone is the male sex hormone that is responsible for the growth of bones and muscles, and for the development of masculine features such as, facial hair and a deeper voice.

It also increases muscle mass and muscle strength. Although it may take a little longer, you can get the same effects by following a supervised and safe weight training program and good nutrition.

Steroids are controlled substances, available by prescription and are used to treat specific medical conditions. It is not illegal to possess steroids for personal use, but possession for trafficking is illegal.

Since steroids are illegal to get without a doctor's prescription, this has resulted in a widespread black market supply of steroids. Steroids obtained through illegal means may be counterfeit (not the same as you would get from a doctor) and possibly impure.

Steroids are taken by mouth as tablets or capsules, by injection into muscles, or as gels or creams that are rubbed into the skin. Doses taken by people who abuse steroids can be up to 100 times greater than doses used for treating medical conditions.

Who uses steroids?

Steroid users are not necessarily just professional athletes. You may be thinking of using steroids to change the way you look, and 'bulk up' or build muscle to help you feel better about yourself. You may be thinking that you can become more popular and get more respect and sex appeal.

About 83,000 young Canadians, mostly young men, between the ages of 11 and 18 report using steroids at least once.

Of those young Canadians who use steroids, about half use steroids to improve their performance in sports; almost as many use steroids to change their physical appearance.

Most steroid users are male, white, middle class and age 14 or older. The majority are involved in a regular physical activity or fitness/weight training program.

Women between the ages of 11 and 18 are less likely to use steroids. It's mainly a male issue.

Do you know the side effects of using steroids?

Steroids have dangerous side effects. However, many of the consequences don't appear until much later. If you are relying on advice from other users and friends, they may not know or tell you about the dangers.

Steroids can affect the way you look:

  • Severe acne (pimples) of face and body
  • Hair loss
  • In teenagers, steroids can stop bones from growing, so you may not grow to your full height
  • In girls, steroids may cause masculine features like more body hair, smaller breasts, deeper voice, and larger clitoris
  • Breast enlargement in boys

Steroids can affect your sex drive:

Steroids can affect your personality:

  • 'Roid rage' where you may become more aggressive or violent, and have bursts of anger
  • depression
  • mood swings
  • being tired

Steroids can threaten your life:

What can you do instead of taking steroids?

Even though steroids increase the size of your muscles, they can damage your health.

You can talk to your gym teachers and/or coaches to get information about nutrition, exercise, and other training techniques for improving performance.

You can ask your teachers and/or coaches to talk to other young people about the dangers of using steroids.

You can feel good about yourself based on other things, not just your physical appearance. You should be proud of your talents, achievements, abilities, intelligence, sense of humor, etc.

It may take you longer, but you can get fit and build muscle without using steroids. You can feel proud of yourself by setting goals and achieving them without the use of steroids.