Gay and bisexual teen boys use illicit steroids at a rate six times that of straight boys, according to a new study.
Research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics found that 21 percent of gay or bisexual teen males reported using steroids. Only four percent of straight males said they used the drugs. Eight percent of gay or bisexual teens and less than two percent of straight teens said they used steroid pills or injections up to 40 times. Four percent of gay and bisexual teens and less than one percent of straight teens reported using steroids more than 40 times.
Reasons for this “dramatic disparity” remain unclear. Study authors say gay and bisexual teens may feel more pressure to have "ideal" male physiques. They also posited that the steroid use is related to fighting off bullies, Fox News reported.
"Given the dramatic disparity ... it would seem that this is a population in which greater attention is needed," study authors said.
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The study is the first to examine steroid use, while previous research has found similar disparities in abuse of other substances.
Dr. Rob Garofalo, the adolescent medicine chief at Lurie Children's Hospital in Chicago, told Fox News that the results are in line with the high rates of body image issues seen in gay youth.
"It is still shocking. These are dramatically high rates,” Garofalo said.
"It's a bit sad that we saw such a large health disparity," said study co-author Aaron Blashill, a psychologist and scientist at the Fenway Institute, which treats gays and lesbians.
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According to the Food and Drug Administration, more than half a million high-school students use steroids.
Garofalo says teens are more tight-lipped about steroid usage than about alcohol or tobacco usage, and that physicians should be aware of the risks, especially for gay and bi youth.