My 4th topic with the 7th graders this year was steroids and supplements. I started the class by discussing why athletes may be tempted to use steroids even though it is cheating and wrong.
I also talked about the addictive behavior that some steroid users might fall into that could be caused by mental illness. Similar (but in reverse) to a person suffering from an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia, an extreme body builder may compulsively uses steroids to build muscles that can never be large enough. Whatever disruptive or unhealthy addiction a person develops, the root of the problem lies in mental illness. The destructive habit is just the product of the problem.
We also talked about how steroids work and what the side effects are. Sure, you can take steroids to build muscle or recover faster, but you will also have to deal with the side effects of manipulating the hormones in your body.
After that introduction, we watched portions of a documentary called “Bigger, Stronger, Faster”. The movie tells the story of three brothers that started body building in their teens. The video discusses how using steroids changed their lives and the moral issues they had to wrestle with and rationalize.
We also talked about how misleading the health supplement industry can be and how important it is to research any supplement you think of taking. The movie has an excellent scene in which the director makes his own health supplement according to current federal laws (and that he could sell at GNC for $60 a bottle) that has almost no nutritional value or practical use. The movie also shows that its possible to make a set of “before and after” pics from a diet or supplement add in one day (like the picture below). I emphasized how important it is to carefully research any supplement or drug before you use it, and that the pictures you see on the covers of magazines are not always what they seem.