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April 2000

The Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids Program: Preventing Drug Use and Promoting Health Behaviors

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Medicine, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland (Drs Goldberg, Elliot, and Moe); the Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, Tempe (Dr MacKinnon and Ms Cheong); and the Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente, Portland, Ore (Dr Clarke).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154(4):332-338. doi:10.1001/archpedi.154.4.332

Background  Use of alcohol and other illicit drugs by adolescent male athletes is a significant problem. Participation in sports may encourage use of drugs that enhance athletic performance, especially anabolic steroids (AS). Because, to our knowledge, no other intervention has successfully altered substance abuse by athletes, we developed and assessed the efficacy of a team-centered, sex-specific education program designed to reduce adolescent athletes' intentions to use and use of AS and alcohol and other illicit drugs.

Methods  We studied 31 high school football teams that comprised 3207 athletes in 3 successive annual cohorts (1994-1996). The intervention included interactive classroom and exercise training sessions given by peer educators and facilitated by coaches and strength trainers. Program content included discussion of sports nutrition, exercise alternatives to AS and sport supplements, and the effects of substance abuse in sports, drug refusal role-playing, and the creation of health promotion messages. Questionnaires assessing AS, the use of sport supplements and alcohol and other illicit drugs, and potential risk and protective factors were administered before and after the intervention (before and after the football season) and up to 1 year after the program.

Results  At season's end, intentions to use (P<.05) and actual AS use (P<.04) were significantly lower among students who participated in the study. Although AS reduction did not achieve significance at 1 year (P<.08), intentions to use AS remained lower (P=.02). Illicit drug use (marijuana, amphetamines, and narcotics) was reduced at 1 year, whether alcohol was included (P=.04) or excluded (P=.02) from the index. Other long-term effects included fewer students reporting drinking and driving (P=.004), less sport supplement use (P=.009), and improved nutrition behaviors (P<.02).

Conclusions  Use of alcohol and other illicit drugs and associated harmful activities can be prevented with a sex-specific, team-centered education. School athletic teams provide an optimal environment in which to provide drug prevention and health promotion education.