It's not just a drug used by male bodybuilders anymore. These days, women and even young girls are using steroids to get stronger and look better.
Scientists and athletes testified before a congressional committee last week on what recent studies indicate is a high number of teenage girls using steroids for athletic and cosmetic reasons.
Anabolic steroids go by the street names of “ 'roids,” “juice,” “hype,” or “pump.” Man-made substances that act like the body's natural male hormone testosterone, steroids help to build muscle tissue and promote loss of body fat.
Experts say that in America's weight-conscious society, those qualities could make steroids appealing to teenage girls.
Former World Champion sprinter Kelli White testified at the hearing. She first used steroids at the age of 23. Now she's serving a two-year ban from her sport.
She stated at the hearing that, "I began using these substances not to give me an advantage, but because I had become convinced I needed to use them to level the playing field [be equal] with my competitors."
But according to Representative Henry Waxman, the most disturbing piece of evidence from the Centers for Disease Control study was that girls are also using steroids to enhance personal appearance.
Misuse of steroids can lead to heart attacks, strokes, cancer, sterility and mood swings. In female users, effects include increased body and facial hair, deeper voice, and menstrual irregularities.
Congressman Henry Waxmen said that,” If young women today are taking steroids, this problem is bigger than we thought."
The CDC study estimates that over seven percent of 9th grade girls have tried steroids, although Dr. Harrison Pope and others say that number is exaggerated. "I would estimate the true rate of anabolic steroid use among teenage girls is probably at most a few tenths of a point."
And doctors say, when it comes to steroids, any number is too many.