Thursday, March 31, 2005

In the Not Really News Category;
Anabolic Steroid Abuse in Adolescents

Just in case you are reading blogs because all the major news outlets are spewing noise, devoid of real information, about things that are not really news, here is a bit about a subject that is not really news, but which actually is meaningful.  From today's University of Michigan Health System news release:
’Roid rage, depression and suicide: U-M addiction expert warns of dangers of teen steroid use
Some of the damage from steroids is irreversible, doctor says
April 1, 2005

ANN ARBOR, MI -Suspicions of steroid use are clouding Major League Baseball at the start of its 2005 season, but a bigger problem than the image of the national pastime is the health impact of anabolic steroids on adolescents, a University of Michigan addiction expert says.

Brower cautions that young people may think steroids are safe when they hear of their sports idols taking them. In reality, the risks of steroid use can include serious and irreversible physical effects, as well as mental perils such as severe depression, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, and violent aggression, known as “’roid rage.”

He notes that suicide is the third-leading cause of death among people ages 15-24. “This is an age group that is already at high risk,” says Brower, associate professor of psychiatry at UMHS. “When you add steroids, you are increasing the risk of suicide.” [...]
The complete article has links to more information about anabolic steroid abuse.

Messing around with hormones really is a bad idea, unless you know exactly what you are doing.  That is why the strongest topical steroid cream you can get over the counter is 0.1% hydrocortisone.  (Dermatologists scoff at it, saying it isn't really strong enough to do anything, other than relieve a minor itch.)  Recently, the FDA reviewed a request to put stronger products on over-the-counter status, and rejected it
FDA's Nonprescription Drugs and Dermatologic & Ophthalmic Drugs Advisory Committee members voted 21-5 that any topical corticosteroid that causes HPA axis suppression “under maximal use conditions” is not an appropriate over-the-counter switch candidate.
There wasn't much evidence that they could be harmful, (except in children with compromised immune systems) but there was evidence that they can cause changes in endocrince function. (They suppresses the HPA axis: the functional unit comprising the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands.)  The FDA panel was exercising caution, mostly based upon the general principle that messing with the endocrine system is tricky business.  This is wise. 

Of course, anabolic steroids used for increasing muscle mass will have a much stronger effect that a topical corticosteroid product.  The fact that the FDA would reject OTC status for the topical products is an indication of how nutty it would be for people to use anabolic steroids without medical supervision; or even with the supervision of an (unscrupulous) physician, if used for nonmedicinal purposes.