Home Child Development The Lure of PEDs in College

The Lure of PEDs in College


For many athletes, the most staggering fact about college life to accept is the fact that everyone on the roster is just as good or better than they are – taller, more muscular, faster, more talented – it’s a huge shock to the system for incoming freshmen who have been used to being the star attraction at their school, in their district, maybe even in their entire city.

For many athletes, this realization starts them on a path of steady self-improvement that develops over the four years of their college career. They begin by working hard in practice, working hard on the mental aspects of the game, learning to be a better teammate, and learning how to make the most of every small opportunity to show what they can do. Over time, they too get stronger, smarter, faster, taller, and bigger, and as they skill level improves, their time playing for the team does as well.

But for every hard worker on the team, there’s at least one student-athlete who is tempted to shortcut their way to success, and among the most alluring ways to shorten the distance between sitting the bench and starting every game is through Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).

What do PEDs do?

Depending on what type of PED is taken, they can increase a body’s ability to build muscle, increase its aggressive tendencies, decrease the time it takes to recover from doing exercises such as weightlifting, and a litany of other things. The athletic gains are short term, but the side effects are anywhere from embarrassing to dangerous to both – they can stunt growth, increase aggression, cause hormone imbalances, and withdrawal from certain types of them is as bad as the use.

Why do good kids take PEDs?

Usually for the same reasons they do other activities they inherently know are wrong: peer pressure, stress to perform at a higher competitive level; and fear of disappointing those closest to them. That’s right, often times the parents are the ones unknowingly driving kids to abuse PEDs. We might say something along the lines of, “I know you’re not playing now, but next year you’ll be dominating the competition” but our kids hear “You better be starting next year or I’ll be disappointed.” Make sure your words of encouragement for your young athletes don’t include words that speak of ultimatums or expectations.

How do I combat PED abuse?

Get educated, and then make sure you educate your young athlete in turn. Let’s be honest, they’re going to hear about ways to get quicker, bigger, and stronger from a host of different sources – friends, teammates, and total strangers; but if their base of knowledge is from you, you’ve got a great chance to help shape their initial opinions on the matter. It won’t be enough to keep them from trying PEDs if they are really insistent on it, but you have the opportunity to install the proper roadblocks and warning signs, while still treating them like an adult.


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Dr. Richard Ginsburg
Dr. Richard D. Ginsburg is a clinical psychologist and sport psychology consultant. He is co-director of the Massachusetts General Hospital PACES Institute of Sport Psychology and is an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ginsburg also serves as staff psychologist in the Newton Wellesley Hospital Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department and is the director of Behavioral Health for the Boston Red Sox. Dr. Ginsburg offers a broad range of clinical services to children, adolescents and adults and conducts youth and professional sport research. He is author of the book, Whose Game Is It, Anyway, A guide to helping your child get the most from sports, organized by age and stage and has served as a sport psychology consultant for a variety of professional and college-level sports teams, including lacrosse, soccer, water polo and ice hockey at Harvard University. He is a member of the US Lacrosse Safety and Science Committee and provides talks and consultations nationally to youth, high school, and collegiate athletic programs. Dr. Ginsburg played lacrosse and soccer at Kenyon College, where he won all-conference and all-Midwest honors. He is also a former independent school teacher and coach. He lives with his wife, Teri, and their two children in Newton, Massachusetts.