When most people talk about steroids they’re talking about the ones that increase muscle size, strength and athletic performance.
These are known as anabolic steroids. However, anabolic steroids have a lesser known and seemingly less exciting cousin – corticosteroids.
While this brand of steroid won’t give you rock hard biceps, they are an integral part of medicine.
They’re used for reducing inflammation and can be effective in treating a wide range of diseases from arthritis and other autoimmune conditions to cancer and asthma.
While you were probably wondering whether anabolic steroids can stunt growth when you clicked on this article, surprisingly there is some research that suggests corticosteroids, specifically asthma inhalers, can stunt growth in teenagers.
While there is no way to predict future height with perfect accuracy, one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that quintupling glucocorticoid dosage not only did not improve asthma but was associated with a very small loss in height averaging .23 centimeters per year when compared to a low dose group.
There is also some evidence that using prescribed growth hormone can counteract the possible “height-reducing” effects of corticosteroids. Now, that we have that out of the way, on to what you came here for, the anabolics.
While anabolic steroids have a pretty bad rap for causing a long list of scary side effects, from the often joked-about balding, acne and shrinkage to the much more attention-grabbing heart attacks and stroke, there is not a large body of research on the effects of steroids specifically on growth, in term of height.
Now, obviously this is not something grown adults need to worry about, but for teenagers who may be tempted to “juice up” in an attempt to dominate high school sports, one of the few things that may make them think twice is the potential loss of precious inches in future height.
The pressure and expectations often placed on young and talented athletes to be recruited and play for top colleges with the dream of one day going pro, can make anabolic steroids a seemingly attractive option.
Outside of the ethical dilemma of using steroids in competition, there is more than enough documented evidence of the long-term damage steroid use can have on the human body.
Today we regularly see career bodybuilders drop dead of heart attacks in their 40s. And while professional bodybuilders use steroids on a level that most of us can’t even comprehend, there is a whole different set of potential risks when introducing powerful drugs into a developing body.
Drug Abuse.gov states that teens who use anabolics run the risk of cognitive side effects including decreased attention and increased impulsiveness, compared to adults who used steroids.
While it is true that certain steroids including testosterone can actually be used to increase height in constitutionally delayed teens, taking the wrong amount of the wrong drugs at the wrong time can have just the opposite effect.
Long-term use of steroids in young bodies can cause bones to mature too quickly and prematurely end their growth stage, with inches left on the table.
So, to answer the question, “do steroids stunt growth” — yes, it’s certainly possible. However, it’s the more serious and scientifically proven damaging effects of these drugs that should make this option a non-option for all teens.