The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids released survey results this week stating that the use of synthetic human growth hormones (HGH) is on the rise among teens.
The study, questioning 3,705 teens and 750 parents, found that teen use of HGH has increased by 120% from the 2012-2013 school year.
The number of teens in grades 9-12 who report having tried the drug without a prescription is currently at 11%, up from 5% in 2012, according to the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS).
The study found no difference between HGH use in teen boys versus teen girls who reported using the drug illegally. However, 15% African-American and Hispanic teens reported using the drug, with only 9% of Caucasian teens reporting use, writes Michael McEnaney for website TechTimes.
"These new data points to a troubling development among today's teens. Young people are seeking out and using performance-enhancing substances like synthetic HGH – and supplements purporting to contain HGH – hoping to improve athletic performance or body appearance without really knowing what substances they are putting into their bodies," said Steve Pasierb, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
The study also discovered that 44% of the teens reported trying marijuana at least once, with 24% reporting using within the past month, and 41% having tried the drug before turning 15. These numbers have remained about the same for the past five years.
While HGH occurs naturally within the human body, helping to regulate muscle and bone growth, synthetic HGH is illegally used to mimic these effects for athletic performance as well as appearance.
The drug was introduced in 1985 for treatment of HIV/AIDS and other diseases that waste away human muscle. Its use requires a doctor's prescription.
With teen awareness of online marketing of HGH on the rise, up from 17% in 2012 to 22% in 2013, teens are becoming more likely to believe the drug comes with less risks involved than previous years, making them more likely to try performance-enhancing substances.
"We know that the win-at-all costs culture in sport and in society as a whole has a direct impact on the health and well-being of young people," said Travis T. Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. "The results of this study further demonstrate the importance of educating young people, their parents and coaches on the risks associated with the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and the need to protect young people from those who would prey on them as easy marketing targets."
Of the parents surveyed, 58% report having had a conversation about drug use with their children, but only 3% believe their child has ever used performance-enhancing drugs.
Major League Baseball Charities partnered with The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids to create the Play Healthy Program, which will educate families on the risks involved with using drugs like HGH and help student-athletes to make healthier decisions.
The program will offer the Play Healthy Awards, rewarding coaches and athletes for their teamwork in promotion of a drug-free competition. MLB has donated more than $42 million to the cause in the last several years to help build public awareness.