Published on March 04, 2013

Teens becoming more at risk for using performance-enhancing drugs and supplements

Erica Edwards, First Coast News

According to the World Health Organization, over the past ten years, the use of performance-enhancing drugs, or "doping," has trickled down from professional sports to high school sports and even into recreational use. It could even be sold in your local nutrition store, which means your teen could be at risk.

Tony Iaquinto, the president of local health organization Commit to be Fit, said the message being sent to teens is clear.

"They're looking at magazines. They're looking at athletes that support these products, and somehow they get lost in the minutiae of that and it was geared for adults and not them."

Products like pills for diet and weight-loss or powders meant to help users gain weight, energy or endurance. Products like "jack3d," the workout booster at the center of a lawsuit after the deaths of two soldiers who used it back in 2011.

The FDA issued a warning to manufacturers saying the stimulant -- called dimethylamylamine, or DMAA -- can raise blood pressure and heart rate, and could lead to heart attacks.

Sports medicine physician Dr. Wesley Mills said many times, teens don't know what they're taking.

"They just know they're advertised or touted to build muscle mass or increase your strength, but when we look and see, we're not even sure if it does that, but it's possible it'll cause a lot of the side effects."

Side effects, he said, might not show up for years, and in some cases, haven't even been discovered.

"The main problem with most of these things aren't regulated by the FDA, so you have no idea about their purity, their concentration levels, and most of these things have not been studied long term because, again, they're not regulated by the FDA, so who's spending the money to do these studies? The companies themselves obviously aren't, because they don't want a study to come and say 'hey, this thing causes liver failure.'"

We wanted to find out what products are being sold to your teens, so we sent 15-year-old, Donovan, into a few nutrition stores, to ask for help "bulking up."

At the second store, he was able to easily purchase "NITRIX," a product that's label clearly stated it wasn't to be used by anyone under the age of 18. When we tried to confront the store's manager about the sale, she refused to comment and referred us to a corporate media relations number. First Coast News tried to contact the company, but it has yet to respond.

Most doctors agree that diet supplements simply aren't needed. A balanced diet takes care of most health and nutrition needs. However, right now, there's no law against such supplements, allowing any teens who can get their hands on them, to take them.

A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows nearly 40 percent of boys in middle and high school said they used protein supplements, and nearly 6 percent said they had experimented with steroids.

Mills said the product that was sold to Donovan likely would not be harmful to anyone under 18. He said the manufacturer probably put the label on for legal purposes.

Dimethylamylamine, DMAA, the stimulant in Jack3d" can also show up on a label as "methylhexanamine", or "geranium extract." However, reading the ingredients isn't really enough. Our experts say if your teen wants to take a supplement, make sure you check with your pediatrician first.

Signs your teen might be using steroids:
• Quick weight gain with larger muscle mass
• Aggressiveness and bad attitude
• Mood swings
• Jaundice / skin change
• Purple or red spots on the body
• Swelling of feet and lower legs
• Shaking or trembling
• Persistent body odors
• Severe acne breakouts with oily skin

See the story on First Coast News.