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Teens' reported use of synthetic growth hormone more than doubles

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Interest in steroid-like effects may be driving increased use

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Teens' reported use of synthetic human growth hormone without a prescription — generally with the intent of mimicking the effects of steroids — has more than doubled over the last two years, rising from 5 percent of high school students in 2012 to 11 percent in 2013, according to a new study from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. The partnership says that the results represent teens' increasing interest in performance-enhancing substances like steroids, which synthetic human growth hormone (HGH) is often used as a substitute for.

"It is difficult if not impossible to know what exactly is contained in these products."

HGH naturally occurs in the body, but a synthetic version of it is available as a prescription for treating diseases, deficiencies, and issues with short stature. Because the study relies on self-reported data, it's unlikely that teens are all actually using prescription HGH — instead, many may well be using supplements that are marketed as containing HGH or promoting HGH production in the body. Even so, teens' intended use of HGH without a prescription still signals an increased interest in using it improve their appearance and athletic performance — that may well recognize it as one of the drugs that Lance Armstrong took.

While the study found that the difference in use between boys and girls was what it considers to be slight (12 percent to 9 percent), it did find that African-American teens (15 percent) and Hispanic teens (13 percent) were more likely than Caucasian teens (9 percent) to report that they had used synthetic HGH at least once. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is of course concerned with the marked increase in reported use, especially with regard to how it might relate to a broader misuse of prescription drugs and their consumption of supplements.

"It is difficult if not impossible to know what exactly is contained in these products teens are consuming," Steve Pasierb, CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, says in a statement. In addition to better education about the use of performance-enhancing drugs, Pasierb suggests that lawmakers examine how supplements are being marketed, saying that it calls for the "serious evaluation of the areas in which current controls on manufacturing and marketing are failing to prevent the use of these products by teens."