The Risky Business of APEDs

Whether striving for increased strength and speed, or seeking physical perfection, many people today turn to appearance and performance enhancing drugs (APEDs) that claim to promise quick results. To better inform everyone at Middlesex about the health risks involved with taking APEDs, Head Athletic Trainer Laura Darby McNally ’80 invited Brian Parker of the Taylor Hooton Foundation to speak at Assembly on January 31.

Many at Middlesex may have been surprised to learn that the typical APED user is a high-achiever, not someone lacking in talent or determination. As Mr. Parker explained, the Foundation was established after the 2003 death of Taylor Hooton, a JV baseball player whose coach told him to get bigger and stronger if he wanted to become a varsity athlete. Because Taylor hadn’t been told how to achieve that, he started taking steroids, just as other friends did, but found the side-effects disturbing enough to seek help from his parents after six months. Tragically, the family sought help from a doctor who was unfamiliar with steroids, and his advice to stop using immediately led to severe withdrawal and depression for Taylor, who committed suicide six weeks later.

As a former user of different APEDs, Mr. Parker knowledgeably approached a serious subject with candor and self-deprecating humor. Discussing in depth three kinds of APEDs – supplements, stimulants, and steroids – he cautioned students to stop and take a few minutes to research any substance they are considering trying. “Ask yourself,” he said, “What is in this bottle? Do I really need it?” Largely unregulated, APEDs may not be clean and often contain banned substances known to cause serious harm. Even products that may seem innocuous, like over-the-counter energy drinks or other short-term energy boosters, can lead to kidney and cardiac failure.

Mr. Parker recommended that students consult two apps, NSF Sport and Aegis Shield, before taking any APED, as these programs can detail the ingredients in many products. And instead of ingesting any of these substances, he noted, students can safely improve performance with a healthy diet and training program. Fortunately for Middlesex students, that kind of professional, personalized advice is readily available in the Athletic Training Room and Health Center.

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