NIH Press Release
National Institute on Drug Abuse

Tuesday, Nov. 19, 1996
5:00 PM Eastern Time

Mona Brown
Sheryl Massaro
(301) 443-6245

New Drug Prevention Program Helps Student Athletes
Avoid Steroids Use

A new drug prevention and education program called ATLAS (Adolescents Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids) is extremely effective in preventing use of anabolic steroids among high school athletes, according to a study published in the November 20, 1996 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study demonstrated that students in the ATLAS program had enhanced healthy behaviors, reduced factors that encourage steroid use, and lower intent to use steroids. The ATLAS program, created by scientists at the Oregon Health Sciences University and led by Dr. Linn Goldberg, was funded by a research grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institutes of Health.

"This is the first prevention study that has focused on the abuse of anablic steroids," said Dr. Alan I. Leshner, Director of NIDA. "The results are promising, with the potential to have a long-term impact of health of young people and on their use of drugs such as steroids."

The ATLAS program includes seven 50-minute classes led by coaches and student team leaders. These sessions focus on the effects of steroids, sports nutrition, and strength training alternatives to steroids use. Students also participate in drug refusal role playing and learn about anti-steroids media messages. In addition to the classes there are seven weight room sessions taught by Oregon Health Sciences University research staff. Information is also distributed to parents, and they were invited to a discussion session.

"ATLAS is a very unique approach to dealing with the problem of steroid use among athletes. It involves a team-approach that empowers student athletes to make the right choices through education. And we now know it works," comments Dr. Goldberg.

The randomized, prospective study involved 1,506 football players/students from 31 different high schools. This year-long study was the first study to use coaches as members of the drug prevention team. Students filled out confidential questionnaires immediately before and after participating in the ATLAS program and then again approximately 12 months later to measure the effectiveness of the program.

Compared to student athletes who were not exposed to the ATLAS program, ATLAS participants had increased understanding of the effects of steroids, greater belief in personal vulnerability to the consequences of steroid use, improved drug refusal skills, less belief in steroid-promoting media messages, increased belief in the team as an information source, improved perception of athletic abilities and strength training self-efficacy, improved nutrition and exercise behaviors and reduced intentions to use steroids.

In the 1995 Monitoring the Future Study, conducted under NIDA funding by the University of Michigan, about 2% of students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades had used anabolic steroids at least once in their lives. Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male hormone testosterone. Their use, by athletes and others, increases lean muscle mass, strength, and the ability to train longer and harder. However, anabolic steroids use can produce severe physical and emotional side effects. For adolescents, a serious side effect can be premature skeletal maturation, or stunted growth. Other risks include severe acne, trembling, high blood pressure, jaundice, and liver tumors. In addition, clinical depression often occurs when use of anabolic steroids is stopped, a factor which may lead to dependence.

NIDA, an Institute of the National Institutes of Health, supports over 85% of the world's research to increase knowledge and promote effective strategies to deal with the health problems and issues associated with drug abuse and addiction. The Institute also carries out a large variety of programs to ensure the rapid dissemination of research information and its implementation in policy and practice.

NIDA's research program on drug abuse prevention approaches has shown that when prevention programs are developed and implemented on sound theory and epidemiologic and behavioral research, such as the ATLAS program, they will decrease drug use. Other effective prevention approaches were highlighted at a recent NIDA conference on drug abuse prevention research.

For additional information on this study and other NIDA research, contact NIDA at (301) 443-6245 or visit the NIDA web site at