Popular ergogenic drugs and supplements in young athletes

Pediatrics. 2006 Mar;117(3):e577-89. doi: 10.1542/peds.2005-1429.


Ergogenic drugs are substances that are used to enhance athletic performance. These drugs include illicit substances as well as compounds that are marketed as nutritional supplements. Many such drugs have been used widely by professional and elite athletes for several decades. However, in recent years, research indicates that younger athletes are increasingly experimenting with these drugs to improve both appearance and athletic abilities. Ergogenic drugs that are commonly used by youths today include anabolic-androgenic steroids, steroid precursors (androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone), growth hormone, creatine, and ephedra alkaloids. Reviewing the literature to date, it is clear that children are exposed to these substances at younger ages than in years past, with use starting as early as middle school. Anabolic steroids and creatine do offer potential gains in body mass and strength but risk adverse effects to multiple organ systems. Steroid precursors, growth hormone, and ephedra alkaloids have not been proven to enhance any athletic measures, whereas they do impart many risks to their users. To combat this drug abuse, there have been recent changes in the legal status of several substances, changes in the rules of youth athletics including drug testing of high school students, and educational initiatives designed for the young athlete. This article summarizes the current literature regarding these ergogenic substances and details their use, effects, risks, and legal standing.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Affect / drug effects
  • Aggression / drug effects
  • Anabolic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anabolic Agents / adverse effects
  • Creatine / administration & dosage
  • Creatine / adverse effects
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / administration & dosage
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / adverse effects
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Doping in Sports* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Doping in Sports* / psychology
  • Doping in Sports* / statistics & numerical data
  • Ephedrine / administration & dosage
  • Ephedrine / adverse effects
  • Human Growth Hormone / administration & dosage
  • Human Growth Hormone / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Legislation, Drug
  • Sports Medicine
  • Substance Abuse Detection
  • United States


  • Anabolic Agents
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • Ephedrine
  • Creatine