Background. The prevalence of anabolic steroid use by high school and college students has been reported in the literature. However, rumors persist regarding the use of steroids by younger populations.
Objective. To assess the extent of steroid use by male and female middle school students and to explore their attitudes and perceptions about these drugs.
Methods. A confidential self-report questionnaire was administered to 466 male and 499 female students between 9 and 13 years of age (mean ± SD, 11.4 ± 0.9 years) in 5th, 6th, and 7th grades from four public middle schools in Massachusetts. The number of students reporting steroid use and differences between users' and nonusers' underlying attitudes and perceptions about these drugs were evaluated.
Results. The response rate was 82% (965/1175 eligible). Results indicated that 2.7% of all middle school students reported using steroids; 2.6% were males and 2.8% were females. When steroid users were compared with nonusers, 47% versus 43% thought that steroids make muscles bigger; 58% versus 31% thought that steroids make muscles stronger; 31% versus 11% thought that steroids improve athletic performance; 23% versus 13% thought that steroids make one look better; 23% versus 9% knew someone their own age who currently took steroids; 38% versus 4% were asked by someone to take steroids; 54% versus 91% thought that steroids were bad for them; and 35% versus 2% indicated that they would take steroids in the future. Additional analyses determined steroid user involvement in sports and activities.
Conclusion. The results of this study suggest that the problem of illicit steroid use extends to children and young adolescents and that a segment of this population is mindful of the potential physiologic effects of steroids. This information will be useful to pediatricians, sport authorities, and school teachers whose guidance will become increasingly more important as steroid educational interventions for male and female middle school students are developed.
- Received September 16, 1997.
- Accepted December 12, 1997.
- Copyright © 1998 American Academy of Pediatrics