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Blue Cross/Blue Shield Says 1.1 Million Teens Have Used Performance Enhancing Sports Supplements and Drugs
Chicago IL, 31 October 2003

Based on projections from a nationally representative survey released today by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), approximately 1.1 million young people between ages 12 and 17 have taken potentially dangerous performance-enhancing supplements and drugs. Just as alarming, 76 percent could not identify any negative side effects that might result from using steroids, ephedra and other similar substances.

"Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans are committed to the health of America's young people," said Allan Korn, MD, BCBSA chief medical officer. "Five years ago when we launched the Healthy Competition program, people thought performance-enhancing drugs were only a problem for elite athletes. But today, 74 percent of the people surveyed agree that these substances pose a significant public health problem."

The survey highlights just how seriously parents view the potential health threat, with 39 percent rating the use of performance-enhancing supplements and drugs as their number one concern in youth sports—far more than aggressive behavior (16 percent), competitiveness (15 percent) and injury (10 percent). Yet, 81 percent of young people said they had never had a conversation with their parents about performance-enhancing substances, and 69 percent said they had received no information from their sports teams.

"This survey should serve as a wakeup call to parents, teachers, coaches, and the public health community about the need to educate our young people regarding the dangers associated with performance-enhancing drugs and supplements," Dr. Korn added.

Other key survey results:

  • Use of ephedra appears to be on the rise, with 7 percent of youth responding that they knew someone using it compared to zero percent in 2001.

  • Among all youths surveyed (ages 10-17) who knew someone using performance-enhancing substances, the most common substance identified was creatine (38 percent). Steroids (34 percent) were the second-most cited.

  • Among the youth who knew someone using performance-enhancing supplements, 27 percent said these teens were taking the substances to "look better," an increase from 19 percent in 2001.

  • While 71 percent of youth thought football players were more likely to use performance-enhancing substances, the perception that baseball players used them increased substantially over the last two years (27 percent vs. 22 percent in 2001).

  • Seventy-one percent of youth strongly disapprove of athletes who use performance-enhancing substances, an increase from 66 percent of young people with this view in 2001.

  • The vast majority of adults believe there should be greater regulatory oversight of the industries responsible for developing and marketing performance-enhancing substances.

"Adults need to protect the bodies and minds of young people from the harmful effects of all drugs, including performance enhancing substances," said John Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy. "Athletes of all ages must contend with the pressures of competition and can sometimes be tempted to take dangerous shortcuts. Parents and coaches can help young athletes make healthy decisions by educating them on these harmful drugs."

In addition to illegal performance-enhancing substances, such as steroids and human growth hormones, many dietary supplement products available over- the-counter or on the Internet contain potentially dangerous ingredients, including androstenedione (andro) and ephedra. These products are not regulated nor tested by the Food and Drug Administration, and some have been reported to cause negative health consequences, including acne, kidney problems, reproductive difficulties and even death. People of all ages should consult with their doctors before taking any sports supplement.

"BCBSA urges young athletes to abstain from using performance-enhancing drugs and supplements and reminds athletes, coaches and parents that skill, dedication and hard work are the most important qualities for success in sports and in life," said Dr. Korn. For more information, visit www.healthycompetition.org.

The survey was conducted for BCBSA by C&R Research Services, Inc. via telephone among a nationally representative sample of adults, 21 to 64 years of age, and youths, 10 to 17 years of age. A total of 1,803 interviews were completed—1,000 among adults and 803 among youths—between April 4 and 23, 2003. The data provides a reliable and accurate representation of both the US adult and youth populations.

Results based on these samples are projectable to the national population and have a sampling error of 3.1 percentage points for the adult sample and 3.5 percentage points for the youth sample. Results based on the subgroups may have a larger sampling error.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association is comprised of 41 independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans that collectively provide healthcare coverage for more than 88.7 million—nearly one in three—Americans.


Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (www.bcbs.com).end-of-story




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