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May 21, 2016 Cheryl Critchley

A Parents Guide to Steroids

Gym Weights

Steroids and other performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) have long been associated with elite sportspeople desperate for an edge. PIEDs are used by people of all skill levels and ages, whether they want to boost their sporting performance or simply build muscle mass.

Among the most notorious cases was champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of seven Tour de France wins after admitting he took EPO (erythropoietin), which regulates red blood cell production.

PIED use is not common and in some cases, steroids are used legitimately to treat medical conditions such as osteoporosis. But if used privately and without professional supervision they can have health implications.

Steroids may be injected intramuscularly, taken orally or rubbed on the skin as a cream. Two per cent of Australian high-school students aged 12 to 17 say they have used steroids without a doctor’s prescription, with boys (2.4 per cent) slightly more likely than girls (1.5 per cent) to have tried them.

Among the 1 per cent of students who tried steroids in the year before the 2011 survey, use was infrequent.

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Performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) claim to improve the effects of physical training and a person’s physical appearance.

There are two broad types. One includes drugs that enhance muscle growth or reduce body fat, such as steroids, peptides, diuretics and stimulants. The other includes hormones and hormone-stimulating drugs such as human growth hormone.

PIEDs were traditionally used by body-builders and athletes but are increasingly used more widely. Those who use them without medical supervision often exceed the recommended dosage and expose themselves to side-effects.

Some black-market drugs, such as synthetic hormones, haven’t been approved for human use.


Commercially produced steroids fall into three groups – human consumption, veterinary use and illegal.

The possession, use and supply of steroids, other than by prescription from a medical practitioner, dentist or veterinarian, is illegal in Australia, as is unauthorised importation.

The use of steroids by competitors in most sports is banned.

MYTH: Steroids shrink your private parts.
FACT: They can. Shrinking testicles and prostate problems are among the many possible side-effects.

For more info on the specific types of steroids out there and their side affects, visit the ADF’s resource on steroids.

Drugs 101 is an informative resource that offers expert advice about drugs and how to start a conversation about them with your kids. It profiles people touched by addiction and explains what drugs are, how they work, their risks and how many young people use them.

Click here to grab your copy.

Drugs 101 Booklet Cover

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