Study Says Steroid Use Common Among High-School Students

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One in fifteen male high-school seniors uses or has used steroids, the first national study of adolescent use of the potentially dangerous drugs has found.

The study, which appeared in the Dec. 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, indicated that 6.64 percent of the 3,403 12th-grade boys surveyed in 46 public and private schools had tried or were currently using steroids, which build muscle tissue. Approximately two-thirds of the users said they intended to participate on a school sports team.

Applying that percentage to the entire population, the researchers estimated that between 250,000 and 500,000 teenage boys have been involved with the drugs.

A growing body of medical evidence suggests that steroids can cause heart disease, sexual and reproductive disorders, immune deficiencies, stunted growth, liver problems, and overly aggressive behavior.

More than one-third of the users said they had first tried steroids by the age of 15; another third had done so by their 16th birthday.

The study indicated that most students purchased the drugs in the "black market"--from other athletes or coaches or in gymnasiums.

The researchers said that "intervention strategies should probably be in place in the high-school level or earlier" and should target teachers, physical-education instructors, and school nurses and physicians.

Study Cites Probable Causes

For Admission-Test-Score Declines

Contrary to some popular theories, the 20-year decline in college-admission-test scores that began in the mid-1960's was not caused by a decline in academic quality, the growing influence of television, or an increase in the number of mothers who work outside the home, a new study maintains.

Rather, the study argues, shifts in the scores were most likely caused by changes in three other factors: time spent on homework, birth order in the family, and drug use.

"This doesn't mean 'Aha! we have found the three things that caused the decline,"' said Scott W. Menard, a research associate at the University of Colorado's institute of behavioral science, who conducted the study.

"It only means that these things deserve further attention, as opposed to other things," he said.

The scores declined from the mid-1960's to the early 1980's, rose slightly, then held steady for three years.

Students spent less time on homework while scores declined, Mr. Menard found, and alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine use peaked within a year of 1980, when test scores reached their lowest point. But after 1980, the study noted, the number of students who were the second or third child in their family, who tend on average to score lower, began to decline.

Although these changes could explain the test-score trends, Mr. Menard said, further research on individuals is needed to determine whether those factors actually caused the scores to behave as they did.

The study appeared in the September 1988 edition of the journal Youth and Society.

A guidebook for developing school policies on drug abuse has been published by the Council of School Attorneys.

The 133-page manual examines the legal issues school administrators face, including search-and-seizure procedures, drug testing, due process and discipline, and potential areas of liability. The Council is part of the National School Boards Association.

Copies of the manual are available for $12 each, or $10 for nsba Direct Affiliate school districts, from the nsba, 1680 Duke St., Alexandria, Va. 22314; (703) 838-6722.

Vol. 08, Issue 17

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