A survey released by Partnership for Drug-Free Kids shows the use of human growth hormones by America's teens has more than doubled in the past year
According to a large-scale national survey released on Wednesday, use of human growth hormones by America's teens has more than doubled in the past year — from 5 to 11 percent.
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids conducted the confidential survey in 2013 between February and June, polling 3,705 high school students. 11 percent of students reported using synthetic HGH at least once. Use of steroids increased from 5 to 7 percent as well.
Nikki Neff, an athletic trainer from Waynesville who is also a personal trainer, said she can see what pushes teens to think they need to use the substance.
“We have a push to be stronger and better looking and all those things earlier,” Neff said. “Their looking for an edge and think why not?”
It can be confusing in a world where there are different fad diets being promoted on television and new pills that claim they can accomplish outrageous amount of weight-loss or muscle gain in a short amount of time. But since they all have the same goal — become lean and musclebound — that's the part teens have engrained into their brain.
“A lot of girls use it to be toned and have a really good look,” Neff said. “HGH thins your skin and gives you that really young, tight appearance.”
Of course, athletes use it to get bigger, faster and stronger.
“HGH has the potential to give you new cell growth,” Neff explained. “So now you're not just increasing size, you're increasing the number of muscle cells you have. That puts you on a whole other level of growth and ability of what you can do.”
As with everything, HGH has its side effects.
“It creates tissue development everywhere else too,” Neff pointed out. “That means larger organs. If you have any abnormal cells, which our body naturally has, that creates more abnormal cell growth, which means the possibility for cancerous tumors.”
It also accelerates the aging process and the struggles that come along with that. It will also cause the pituitary gland to slow down, or completely stop, its natural production of growth hormones, stunting the development of many parts of the body. There's also increased likelihood of diabetes, organ failure at a young age and reports of leukemia.
What's more puzzling is the question of how the teens are getting HGH.
It costs around $600 to $1,000 for a month's supply, depending on where you look. But it is only legal if there is a medical need for it. Otherwise, it is illegal to possess.
Which means teens are more than likely getting it from the streets, bringing up a whole other mess of things.
It's not uncommon for a dealer to be selling a stash of what they claim to be HGH when it's really filled with something else.
“I would be really surprised if kids can get their hands on HGH,” Neff said. “Hopefully what they're injecting is saline.”
That's a sad thing to have to hope for. A quick Google search can provide some ghastly details of people unknowingly injecting much more harmful substances. The problem is, people don't know the difference because there is no immediate effect from injecting human growth hormone.
“You wouldn't know the difference between injecting HGH and saline,” Neff said. “There's no effect you feel from injecting HGH.”
All of that aside, the part that causes Neff to shake her head is the fact that teens feel the need to use HGH despite everything.
“That's the part I worry about,” Neff said. “They think they need HGH and are willing to take the risk of buying it on the streets.”
Teens feel like if they aren't at the right body mass index number, or waist size or weight that they're failures. Or if they aren't good enough at a specific activity.
Neff also believes too much positive reinforcement can cause it too.
“I think one thing we've done [to the detriment of kids] is we tell kids they're good at everything,” Neff said. “You've got to be honest to your kids. This is something you're good at, this is something that you're not. If we tell them they're the best at everything, they expect that and they're willing to do whatever it takes to be the best at everything.”
Kids need to know that extracurricular activities are just games, Neff says.
“It's OK to not be the best, just enjoy it,” Neff said. “This is a hard area to preach that at, when it comes to athletics. Waynesville is the top-of-the-line and they expect the best. Then you have the military nearby where it's perfection, perfection, perfection.”
Waynesville Athletic Director Josh Scott said as far as the school district's involvement goes, they try to teach students of the dangers of drug use.
“We have an extensive unit in all of the freshmen health classes that stresses the dangers of putting drugs in their bodies,” Scott said. “As an athletic group we follow MSHSAA guidelines of not promoting supplements and instead focusing on diet and exercise.”
Scott said Waynesville Athletics won't even suggest the use of protein powder.
Still, Neff said more needs to be done as far as education goes.
There's too much information out there, including horribly inaccurate information, to sift through for adults, let alone teens, about diets and what food is good fuel for their bodies.
They need guidance by trusted sources, and that needs to be educated parents and teachers, Neff says.