How A Teenage Obsession With Muscles Could Turn You Into A Junkie

A large scale US study has found that an increasing number of adolescent boys are taking dietary supplements and steroids in a bid to "get ripped" and fit in with society's image of the ideal man. This obsession with muscle mass can also lead to increased binge drinking, depressive symptoms and consumption of illegal drugs.

Muscular teen picture from Shutterstock

Most studies about body image and its effects on self-esteem tend to focus on teen girls. However, it would seem that their male counterparts are equally obsessed with looks, particularly when it comes to muscle development. A US study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) analysed 5527 males aged 12 to 18 years between 1999 and 2010. The group answered regular questionnaires relating to muscularity concerns, general happiness and narcotics/alcohol use.

The researchers found that adolescent boys who are concerned about building muscle and who use supplements to enhance their physique were more likely than their peers to start binge drinking frequently and use drugs. Many also developed higher levels of depression.

9.2 per cent of the boys in the study reported high concern with muscularity but no bulimic behavior; 2.4 per cent reported high concern about muscularity and used supplements, growth hormones or steroids to enhance their physique; 2.5 per cent had high concern about thinness but no bulimic behavior and 6.3 per cent reported high concern about thinness and muscularity.

The males with high concerns about muscularity and thinness were more likely than their peers to use drugs, including cocaine, crack, heroin, ecstasy, LSD, magic mushrooms, crystal meth and amphetamines. Males with high concerns about muscularity who used supplements and other products to enhance physique were more likely to start binge drinking frequently.

“We observed that by late adolescence and young adulthood, 7.6 per cent of males were extremely focused on wanting more toned or defined muscles and using potentially unhealthy products at least monthly to improve their physiques," the report explained.

"This large group has been understudied in research and may be entirely missed by health care providers because they are not captured by the DSM-IV or the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for eating disorders."

Prospective Associations of Concerns About Physique and the Development of Obesity, Binge Drinking, and Drug Use Among Adolescent Boys and Young Adult Men [JAMA Pediatrics]

See also: Ask LH: How Can I Put On Weight? | Eat Before You Work Out To Burn Fat Without Losing Muscle | How Do You Develop Muscle Mass?


    Misleading title. Correlation does not imply causation.

    Healthier than being a fat.

      Please tell me how mental illness and drug abuse is healthier than being overweight ?

        Maybe that's an american thing, I don't know. But in the circle that I associate with we do not partake in any of those things. I mean unless you think taking creating, BCAA's, Protein powder and Pre-workouts is bad than that's on you.

        this could have gone both ways btw.

        the title could have been "How A Teenage Obsession With Being Fat Could Turn You Into A Junkie"

        How the hell do teenagers even get their hand on anabolic steroids is beyond me, also anyone that's in that kind of scene would know that taking that during your teenage years has real bad effect for late on in life, must be dum dums that are doing it.

        Last edited 06/11/13 6:45 pm

        Well obviously, since that is the dichotomy. No fat kids have a negative self images that are correlated with increased depression and/or drug abuse.

    I blame the unrealistic portrayal and unobtainable image of males in video games.
    Hey, if its good enough for women. . .

    I spent a decent amount of time at the gym throughout my later adolescent years. If anything, i think it kept me off most of the crap my peers were doing because it gave me a healthy respect for my body. Having said that, I wasn't using supplements. I was pumping pure manliness.

    Personally i think young people should be conscious of their image and the composition of their body. I have a number of friends now who are terribly out of shape due to inactivity and poor diet. It is very difficult to say anything to do them about it while not wanting to offend them. Unless you have a serious genetic disorder, i find it difficult to believe that there is any good excuse for being fat. It is a lifestyle choice. *puts on flame-proof suit*.

      i totally agree with you, no need for your suit good sir. In order to get your desired body image one usually stops the use of illegal drugs (I know I did any way).

      As said earlier, its the 'dums' LOL I still can't get over that. Sorry.

        For a lot of people getting "your desired body image" is the problem. Their perception of desirability is out of whack with what is actually healthy.

    Roids and HGH seems to be massive over there and kids look up to these guys claiming to be all natural.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now