Middle-school girls on the juice?

Answers to your questions about the news.
April 29 2005 11:22 AM

Middle-School Girls on the Juice?

How many are there really?

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that, according to "various government and university studies," 5 percent of high-school girls and 7 percent of middle-school girls have tried anabolic steroids. House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis repeated the statistics at Wednesday's hearing on steroid use in the National Football League. Are teenage girls really that into steroids?

It depends on what studies you look at. Neither Davis nor the AP cited specific studies, but there are two ongoing, large-scale efforts to quantify risky behavior among teenagers in the United States. A 2003 survey of 15,240 high-school students by the Centers for Disease Control found that 7.1 percent of ninth-grade girls and 6.1 percent of all high-school girls have used steroids without a doctor's prescription. A 2004 survey of about 50,000 students by the University of Michigan's "Monitoring the Future" program found lower rates. Among the eighth-grade boys and girls, 1.9 percent said they had used steroids, versus 3.4 percent of the 12th-graders.

Daniel Engber Daniel Engber

Daniel Engber is a columnist for Slate

Advertisement

A study out of Washington State University and the University of Minnesota in 2002 asked about 4,000 kids if they had used steroids in the last year. Among the middle-school girls, 5.7 percent said they had, as opposed to 1.4 percent of their high-school counterparts. Are middle-schoolers really more likely to use steroids than older students? The study's authors conclude that younger girls may be more concerned about their bodies, but they may also be less likely to understand the term "steroids." (Over-the-counter "anabolic amplifers" and "prosteroids," for example, might be confused with illegal, anabolic steroids.)

The CDC and University of Michigan surveys use different language in their steroid questions. The CDC asks the question without defining "steroids": "During your life, how many times have you taken steroid pills or shots without a doctor's prescription?" The Michigan survey introduces the question with a longer description of what steroids are and what they're used for. Research has shown that ambiguous descriptions on drug-use questionnaires lead to increased rates of "recanting" among admitted users.

It's often tricky to get people to report on full extent of their own illegal drug use. Studies have shown, for example, that adults are more likely to admit to drug use when asked in person rather than over the phone. Teenagers are more likely to admit to using drugs when they're asked at school than when they're asked at home, and younger kids are less likely to answer questionnaires seriously.

Explainer thanks Linn Goldberg of Oregon Health & Science University and Lloyd Johnston of the University of Michigan.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 1:52 PM Julian Casablancas’ New Album Sounds Like the Furthest Thing From the Strokes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.