The pressure to perform has spiraled down as more than one per cent of eleven year olds admit to using performance enhancing drugs to do better in sports.
Perhaps a result of the admiration and obscene amounts of money paid to professional athletes or maybe parental obsession with their children becoming rich and famous, the sad fact is that by the age of 15, the proportion of children taking performance enhancing drugs had increased from 1.2 to 3 percent and users said they were taking them much more regularly.
While 62 percent of eleven years olds used doping agents less than once per month, at 15 the same proportion were using them at least every week and 24 per cent daily.
Use of the drugs was given as a reason for winning at least one sporting event by 44 percent of the children.
The study is reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The authors questioned 3,500 eleven-year olds entering their first year of secondary school in eastern France in November 2001 about their use of drugs banned under the World Anti-Doping Agency International Standard. Use of any of the listed drugs for a medical condition was allowed.
The children filled out questionnaires every six months which asked about use of doping agents, tobacco, alcohol and cannabis; involvement in sports; and assessed self-esteem and anxiety.
The drug most commonly used to improve sporting prowess was salbutamol, which was taken by 45 percent of users. Corticosteroids were taken by 10 percent, cannabis by 6 percent, and other stimulants and anabolic agents by 38 percent.
Health problems, including becoming violent, change to the voice and loss of consciousness, were experienced by 4 percent of the users.
Boys were more likely to take the drugs than girls. Training for more hours, low-self esteem and signs of anxiety were also linked to increased use.
The authors say:
‘Young athletes who are tempted to use doing agents are more likely to be boys, invest much more time in training, are ready users of psychoactive substances, and, importantly, they appear to be in some distress. Furthermore at least six months previously, they have said that they had been tempted to try a prohibited drug. Adults responsible for young people should be alerted by these signs.’
The entire paper may be found at http://press.psprings.co.uk/bjsm/june/sm35733.pdf.
Source: British Medical Journal