5 alarming truths about performance-enhancing drugs you need to know

Performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) are a controversial cornerstone in competitive sports, often shrouded in secrecy and scandal. Despite their notoriety, many athletes and fitness enthusiasts are drawn to PEDs for their promise of amplified strength, speed, and stamina. As someone deeply versed in the complexities of these substances, I’ve seen firsthand the impact they can have—not just on the record books but on the health and integrity of those who use them.

The allure of surpassing natural limits tempts countless individuals, yet the consequences are seldom fully understood. In this exploration, we’ll delve into seven alarming truths about performance-enhancing drugs. These truths will unpack the often-hidden costs and ethical dilemmas surrounding PED usage.

From health risks to potential bans from competition, each truth serves as a crucial piece of information for anyone considering PEDs. The goal is not to pass judgment but to illuminate the realities that lie beneath the surface of these powerful substances.

By understanding these seven core elements, we aim to provide a clearer picture of what’s at stake when performance enhancement becomes more than just training and diet. For parents and individuals alike, recognizing these facts is pivotal in making informed decisions that align with one’s values and well-being. Let’s dive into what you really need to know about performance-enhancing drugs.

1. Understanding PEDs

Performance-enhancing drugs are not just a concern for the elite athletes of the world; they have permeated down to our schools and playgrounds.

These substances, ranging from anabolic steroids to stimulants and hormones, promise enhanced physical and cognitive abilities but come at a steep price.

It’s critical to understand that these are not mere “boosters” but chemical agents that can alter the very biology of our young ones, leading to potentially irreversible damage.

2. Reasons Behind Usage

The lure of PEDs can be attributed to several factors, from the societal glorification of winning at all costs to the personal battle with self-esteem and body image.

Children, in their formative years, are particularly vulnerable to these pressures.

They see PEDs as a means to fulfill the expectations placed upon them, not just in sports but in all competitive fields.

This mindset is a dangerous precursor to decisions that prioritize short-term gains over long-term health and ethical values.

3. Health Risks Associated with PEDs

The pursuit of excellence through PEDs comes with a high price tag on one’s health. The side effects are numerous and can vary widely depending on the substance used.

Anabolic steroids, human growth hormones, and erythropoietin are just a few on the list of commonly abused PEDs, each carrying its own set of risks.

Steroids can induce liver damage, heart disease, and hormonal imbalances, while the misuse of growth hormones may lead to diabetes and a myriad of joint and muscle pains.

Erythropoietin, known for boosting red blood cell production, increases the risk of stroke or heart attack due to thicker blood.

The immediate gains seen from these drugs are often overshadowed by long-term health complications, some of which may not present until years later. It’s essential for anyone considering PEDs to weigh these potential outcomes against the temporary competitive advantages they offer.

4. Identifying PED Usage

Recognizing the signs of PED use is the first step towards intervention:

1. Physical Changes: The Initial Red Flags

Physical changes are often the most visible indicators of PED use.

These can include rapid muscle growth beyond what might be expected from normal development or exercise routines, unusual acne breakouts, and changes in body composition that seem disproportionate or unnatural.

While these signs can sometimes be attributed to the normal growth spurts associated with adolescence, a sudden and dramatic change warrants attention and could be a prompt for a gentle, non-confrontational conversation.

2. Behavioral Shifts: The Subtle Clues

Behavioral changes can be more subtle but are equally telling.

This might manifest as sudden mood swings, increased aggression or irritability, or unexplained changes in confidence levels. Such emotional volatility can be a side effect of PED use, stemming from the hormonal imbalances these substances can create.

Additionally, a noticeable withdrawal from family activities or a decline in interest in previously enjoyed hobbies could indicate an underlying issue related to PED use or the pressures driving towards it.

3. Performance Changes: Beyond Natural Improvement

An unexpected leap in athletic performance, endurance, or physical capabilities might be a cause for celebration under normal circumstances.

However, when these improvements occur at an improbable rate, it raises questions about their origin.

It’s essential to differentiate between the natural progression resulting from dedication and hard work and that which might be artificially induced.

Celebrating effort and process over outcomes can help mitigate the allure of shortcuts like PEDs.

4. Social Circles: A Shift in Company

Changes in a child’s friend group or social behaviors can provide clues to their activities and pressures.

An association with peers who are known or suspected of PED use could indicate a susceptibility to similar choices.

It’s crucial to understand the dynamics within these new social circles without immediate judgment, fostering open discussions about friendships, trust, and the influences they may bring.

Fostering Open Dialogue: The Keystone of Prevention

Creating an environment where children feel comfortable discussing their pressures, challenges, and even mistakes without fear of judgment or immediate reprimand is essential.

This involves actively listening, showing empathy, and providing unconditional support.

Encouraging such openness requires patience and the establishment of trust over time. It’s about reassuring them that their value is not tied to their achievements but who they are as individuals.

5. Legal and Ethical Implications: Navigating the Sources and Risks of PEDs

The dialogue surrounding the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) extends significantly beyond the realms of health and well-being, touching upon the very essence of integrity, legality, and the moral compass by which we navigate our lives.

It is of paramount importance that we convey to our children the principle that achievements born out of deceit carry a weight far heavier than their momentary glory.

The legal repercussions of engaging with PEDs can be profound, potentially derailing futures and casting long shadows over reputations.

But to effectively guard against these pitfalls, we must first understand where and how our children might encounter these substances.

Potential Sources of PEDs: A Closer Look

The accessibility of PEDs in today’s digital and globalized world has made vigilance more challenging yet more crucial than ever. Here are some potential avenues through which young individuals might come into contact with PEDs:

  1. Online Platforms: The internet has become a bustling marketplace for PEDs, often disguised as ‘nutritional supplements’ or ‘performance enhancers.’ These products, frequently marketed with the allure of rapid results, can be purchased with little to no regulation, making it imperative for parents to monitor their children’s online activities and purchases.
  2. Gyms and Fitness Centers: Gyms and sports clubs can sometimes become environments where PEDs are circulated. Individuals looking to enhance their physical appearance or performance might be introduced to these substances by peers or coaches who have access to or knowledge of PED sources.
  3. Schools and Sports Teams: The pressure to excel in sports can lead some students to consider PEDs as a viable option to gain a competitive edge. This is particularly concerning in environments where there is a culture of winning at all costs, facilitated by individuals within the community who may have access to PEDs.
  4. Social Circles and Peer Networks: Peer influence plays a significant role in the choices our children make. Friends or acquaintances who use or have access to PEDs can become conduits through which these substances are offered or discussed as viable options for enhancing performance or physique.

Strategies for Parents to Mitigate Risks

Understanding the potential sources of PEDs enables parents to take proactive measures to safeguard their children. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Educate About the Dangers and Legalities: Knowledge is a powerful deterrent. Educating your children about the health risks, legal implications, and ethical considerations of PED use can empower them to make informed decisions.
  • Monitor Internet Use: Keeping an eye on your child’s online activities, including their browsing history and online purchases, can help you intervene if you suspect they are exploring avenues to acquire PEDs.
  • Open Lines of Communication: Foster an environment where your child feels comfortable discussing their pressures and temptations. This open dialogue can help you identify if they are feeling tempted or pressured into PED use.
  • Engage with Coaches and Educators: Being actively involved in your child’s extracurricular activities allows you to gauge the culture and ethos of the environments they are part of. Dialogue with coaches and educators can help ensure that ethical practices are being promoted.
  • Promote Healthy Alternatives: Encourage and support your child in pursuing natural methods of enhancing performance, such as nutrition, training, and mental preparation techniques.

Role of Schools and Communities

Our educational institutions and community centers are on the frontline of this battle.

They are not just places of learning but safe havens where children can find guidance, support, and alternatives to the pressures they face.

Programs that emphasize healthy living, mental wellness, and ethical competition are essential in fostering an environment where PEDs have no place.


The battle against the temptation of PEDs is multifaceted, requiring awareness, education, and proactive engagement from parents.

By understanding the potential sources from which PEDs might be acquired and fostering a household grounded in open communication and ethical values, we can guide our children towards making choices that reflect integrity and respect for their health and future prospects.

Instilling the understanding that true success is built on hard work, resilience, and honesty will equip them with the strength to resist shortcuts and embrace the journey of genuine achievement.



1. What are the most common types of PEDs used by youths?

The most common types of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) used by youths include anabolic steroids, which are used to increase muscle mass and strength; stimulants, which improve focus and energy levels; human growth hormones (HGH) that promote growth and muscle development; and erythropoietin (EPO), which enhances endurance by increasing red blood cell production.

Creatine, a legal supplement, is also widely used for its performance-enhancing effects, although it’s not classified as a PED in the same regulatory sense as the others.

2. How can I start a conversation with my child about PEDs without causing them to shut down?

Starting a conversation about PEDs can be delicate, but it’s crucial for ensuring your child’s safety and well-being.

Approach the topic with openness and without judgment. Express your concerns in a caring and supportive manner, focusing on the health risks and ethical implications rather than accusing them of potential use.

You could begin by discussing the pressures they face in sports or academics and naturally segue into the topic of PEDs, emphasizing your interest is in their health and success the right way.

Keeping the conversation general at first can help prevent defensiveness and promote openness.

3. What are the legal consequences of PED use for minors?

The legal consequences of PED use for minors can vary depending on the jurisdiction, but they can be severe.

Possession of certain PEDs without a prescription is illegal and can result in criminal charges, including fines and potential jail time.

For minors, being caught with PEDs can also lead to school disciplinary actions, including suspension or expulsion from sports teams.

Additionally, there can be long-term legal repercussions, such as a criminal record that can affect future opportunities, including college admissions and employment.

4. How can schools and communities be more proactive in preventing PED use?

Schools and communities can play a pivotal role in preventing PED use by implementing comprehensive education programs that address the health risks and ethical issues associated with PEDs.

Providing information about the dangers of PEDs as part of the health curriculum, inviting speakers with expertise or personal experience with PEDs, and promoting a culture that values fair play and integrity over winning at all costs are effective strategies.

Additionally, schools can offer training for coaches and staff to recognize signs of PED use and provide support for students under pressure to perform.

Community sports leagues can also adopt strict anti-PED policies and conduct educational workshops for athletes and parents.

5. What should I do if I suspect my child is using PEDs?

If you suspect your child is using PEDs, approach the situation with care and support rather than confrontation.

Express your concerns calmly and openly, focusing on your love and worry for their health and well-being.

Encourage an honest conversation, offering them a safe space to share their experiences and pressures.

It’s important to listen and understand their perspective before offering guidance.

Consider consulting a healthcare professional for advice on how to address the situation, including medical evaluation and counseling if necessary.

Offering to seek professional help together can demonstrate your commitment to their health and future.

Yen Tran

Yen Tran

Yen is a freelance writer and a researcher specializing in mental health, self-awareness, and psychology. Her hobby is studying human behavior throughout their reaction upon situations. Be sure to check out her other posts on our blog.

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