ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
What is the health risk of steroid abuse by adolescence and what might random drug testing achieve? Well, those are the questions for our next guest.
Dr. Michael Miletic joins us from Detroit. He is a psychiatrist. He works with student athletes. And he's a former competitive weightlifter himself. Welcome now to the program.
Dr. MICHAEL MILETIC (Psychiatrist): Thank you very much, Robert.
SIEGEL: Thank you. First of all, when we're talking about the teenagers taking steroids, is there anything different or more dangerous for them than, say, for 30-year-old professional athletes to take steroids?
Dr. MILETIC: I think there is a significant difference because of the continuing development, both, physically, developmentally, emotionally and neurologically in adolescence. Things are still rapidly changing with an adolescent's brain and body. Therefore, when you introduce something to that body that's changing in such a rapid way, you're going to have unpredictable effects on all of those systems.
SIEGEL: Well, teenage bodies - we might not like it, but they've been pharmacological hothouses for many years, given what kids do to themselves. What are the actual risks of taking steroids?
Dr. MILETIC: There's a number of them, Robert. The ones that are most obvious to people are the masculinizing effects that you see with pure testosterone and androgen as opposed to some of the other synthetic ones, which are more anabolic related. At some point, that can lead down the line to an increase of hypertension, high blood pressure disorders and, theoretically, cardiovascular events. But in addition to that, because bone growth is still occurring with known steroids and particularly testosterone can also cause a premature closure of growth plates or epiphyseal plates of bones.
In addition, their own innate testosterone and sperm production gets shut down because of the effect of the testosterone on the pituitary, which produces the precursors for testosterone in the testicles. Those are only the - only a few of them. We could go on with some more theoretical ones.
SIEGEL: But it sounds to fair to summarize what you're saying that the consequences for teenagers could actually be considerably greater and more negative than for - than from mature adults in taking these drugs.
Dr. MILETIC: Yes. And that's even before we start talking about the possible effects on the brain in adolescence.
SIEGEL: Not too long ago, I was talking with Tony Perez, a former great baseball player from Cincinnati Reds.
Dr. MILETIC: Cincinnati Reds, yeah.
SIEGEL: In his day, he was considered huge. He's about 6'2. And he's remarking on the fact that today, nearly all the pitchers on any major league pitching staff are two or three inches taller than he is. It's not that the whole continent has been on drugs for the past four years. We're getting bigger. Where does artificial growth begin and where just the normal increase in the size of Americans end?
Dr. MILETIC: You know, that's a great question. And I think, in addition to that, there's sort of much more of an improved selection criteria process that is undergone by college and professional teams now. So they are selecting out those people that are bigger to begin with, and then hoping to create athletes out of them instead of just picking out what looks like a natural athlete to begin with, regardless of size, that may be excelling. So in addition to America becoming bigger, selection processes have shifted over the last 15 years.
SIEGEL: But that means that a high school coach might be able to tell an athlete, you're not really going anywhere very far with this sport because you're too small, and the kid is 15.
Dr. MILETIC: That happens on a regular basis. And I would go back as far as the age 10 that I've heard that statement to kids.
SIEGEL: Well, that's a pretty strong incentive for the kid to say, how do I get big?
Dr. MILETIC: Exactly. And I have to say, I've also had patients in my practice that have been in that position whose parents have taken them to pediatricians and had growth hormone administered to them from the time that they were young, not because they were physiological dwarfs, but because the parents wanted them to be bigger and potentially more competitive, i.e. college scholarships. That's another phenomenon in America.
SIEGEL: Well, Dr. Miletic, thank you very much for talking with us.
Dr. MILETIC: Thank you very much, Robert.
SIEGEL: That's Dr. Michael Miletic, speaking to us from Detroit. Subject: Teenage abuse of steroids performance-enhancing drugs.
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