Gay and bisexual boys are more likely to abuse steroids

NEW YORK Mon Feb 3, 2014 11:51am EST

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Gay and bisexual boys are almost six times as likely as their heterosexual peers to misuse steroids, according to a new study.

"What was most surprising to us was the magnitude of the disparities that emerged between sexual minority and heterosexual boys," Aaron J. Blashill from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston told Reuters Health in an email.

Upwards of 5 percent of adolescent boys use anabolic-androgenic steroids to enhance strength, athletic performance, and muscle size, but nobody had studied the association between sexual orientation and steroid abuse before, Blashill and his colleague Steven A. Safren noted.

Long-term misuse of steroids can lead to heart problems, hormone-related changes and psychiatric disorders.

The researchers were concerned that gay and bisexual boys might be more likely to misuse steroids because of other factors that have been tied to steroid and other substance abuse. Those include depression, victimization, suicidal thoughts and intent and poor body image.

To see if that was the case, Blashill and Safren used data from the 2005 and 2007 U.S. Youth Risk Behavior Surveys of 17,250 teenage boys, including 635 who were gay or bisexual.

About 21 percent of gay and bisexual boys said they had abused steroids at some time in their lives, compared with only 4 percent of heterosexual boys.

Gay and bisexual boys were also nearly six times as likely as heterosexual boys to report moderate use of steroids (at least 10 times) or severe use (at least 40 times), according to the report in the journal Pediatrics.

In an effort to understand why, the researchers looked at other factors thought to be important contributors to steroid use. They found drug and alcohol use, depression or suicidal tendencies and feelings of victimization played a role in steroid misuse.

Even after taking those factors into account, though, being gay or bisexual was still linked to an increased risk of steroid abuse.

"Gay and bisexual boys are often targets of bullying, and some boys (particularly if they also possess poor body image) may turn to anabolic-androgen steroids (AAS) use as a means to obtain a more muscular build, in hopes it would deter others from bullying them," Blashill said.

"Parents should be mindful of their son's school climate regarding bullying, in general, and specifically, attitudes toward sexual minorities."

Steroids are often used covertly, he noted, so it may be hard for parents to observe their use directly. But they may be able to monitor related behaviors, like excessive exercise and weightlifting.

"On a broader point, sexual minority boys report high levels of body dissatisfaction (more similar to levels of heterosexual girls than heterosexual boys), so parents should also be mindful that body image concerns may well be a factor in their sons' lives," Blashill said.

"Often, I'll hear from patients telling me how they are frequently told they're 'too skinny' or that they need to 'put some meat on those bones' from family/friends, who are often well-intentioned," or who even meant to compliment them, he added.

"These boys, quite eloquently, state how such a double-standard exists, that calling a boy 'so skinny' is akin to calling a girl 'fat,' but it appears that society, by and large, feels the former is more socially acceptable. But, these comments, coming from peers, family (and) coaches, can have real impacts on boys' body image," Blashill said.

SOURCE: Pediatrics, online February 3, 2014.

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Comments (5)
d2d2d2 wrote:
There’s been studies regarding steroid use and shrinkage of certain male parts. It might have a part to play in this, as an attempt to reduce size in this area is sometimes sought among gay males.

Feb 03, 2014 12:21pm EST  --  Report as abuse
SactoPete wrote:
Of course gay and bisexual boys are more concerned about looking ‘ripped’. Appearance is very important in the gay/bisexual community so it’s no surprise that this group would use steroids in order to look physically attractive. What’s really a shame here is that the researchers can’t get past their political correctness long enough to just ask some random gay kids why they use steroids.

Feb 03, 2014 12:32pm EST  --  Report as abuse
JorgeV. wrote:
d2d2d2 that is totally silly. as a gay male shrinking your manhood is never a desired trait. Probably very much the opposit. Perhaps you were thinking of those who are transgendered or have sexual identity issues. But this article is very much on target. The gay culture is so focused on body image and the need to be strong and super masculine (at least in physique). There is so much pressure to have the lean body and six pack, this article doesn’t suprise me in the least. The gay culture really needs to calm down with the whole need to be super models, its just not in everyone’s genetic code to be as such. It’s sad really.

Feb 03, 2014 1:45pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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