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Feb 03, 2014 02:25 PM EST

Gay And Bisexual Teenage Boys Turn To Steroids Because Of Bullying And Insensitive Comments

Gay and bisexual boys are significantly more likely to use steroids than their heterosexual peers, Reuters reported. In the first study to relate youth steroid use and sexuality, Aaron J. Blashill and Steven A. Safren from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston analyzed surveys from 2005 and 2007, which recorded the steroid tendencies of straight, gay, and bisexual teenage boys. Twenty one percent of gay and bisexual teens said they had "abused" steroids while just four percent of straight teens admitted to the same thing.

According to Blashill and Safren, the findings are most directly the result of bullying, poor body image, and a double standard by which calling a teenage boy too skinny is acceptable while calling a teenage girl fat is not.  

"Gay and bisexual boys are often targets of bullying, and some boys (particularly if they also possess poor body image) may turn to anabolic-androgen steroids (AAS) use as a means to obtain a more muscular build, in hopes it would deter others from bullying them," Blashill said.

Parents may only have so much control over in-school bullying, but they should watch what they say -- and what family members say -- about the bodies of their children, according to the researchers.

"Often, I'll hear from patients telling me how they are frequently told they're 'too skinny' or that they need to 'put some meat on those bones' from family/friends, who are often well-intentioned," Blashill said. "These boys, quite eloquently, state how such a double-standard exists, that calling a boy 'so skinny' is akin to calling a girl 'fat,' but it appears that society, by and large, feels the former is more socially acceptable. But, these comments, coming from peers, family (and) coaches, can have real impacts on boys' body image."

Interestingly, the study categorizes a drug with no prescribed recreational uses into three categories: moderate use (10 times), abuse, and severe use (40 times). In some ways, just a single use of steroids could be considered abuse; thus, news outlets might more appropriately pen headlines of "Gay And Bisexual Teenage Boys More Likely To Turn To Steroids" than "More Likely To Abuse Them," as Reuters writes. The disparity between gay and straight teenage boys held for moderate use and overuse, according to the study.

Long term steroid  use can affect a host of changes, resulting in hormonal imbalances, psychiatric issues, and heart problems, Reuters reported.

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