Steroid Abuse Among Connecticut Teenagers is a Growing Problem

Predictable!  And tragic.

These are the two words that come to mind when I see a high school administrator reacting to the steroid bust of one of his students by trying to paint this as an “isolated” case.  Unbelievable!  just how does this leader KNOW that it’s isolated?  Did he/she have the rest of the kids tested?  Or, is he just going by his gut feeling?

We’ve tried calling into this school to get someone to have us in to address their students.  Once they found out why we were calling, they’ve stopped returning our phone calls.


Brian Cunningham says no one asked him where he got the 200 doses of illegal steroids found in his Southington High School locker back in April. Nor did anyone ask the 18-year-old who among his friends or teammates might also be doping.

Not the cops, not school officials. One Southington High administrator told a reporter he believed Cunningham, a defensive end on the Blue Knights varsity football team for two years, was an isolated case.

None of which comes as any surprise to Don Hooton.

“They don’t want to know… And that’s very, very typical,” says Hooton, president of a foundation dedicated to educating kids, parents and educators about the dangers of steroids.

“Athletic directors and other school officials want to believe, and they want the public to believe, that it’s just one rogue kid,” says Hooton. “It’s naive and irresponsible. Until you understand you have a problem, how are you going to marshal the resources to deal with it?”

Very few Americans do understand. A recent Gallup poll found less than 20 percent of adults surveyed believe teenage steroid abuse to be a major problem.

High-profile cases of doping among top athletes like Major League Baseball’s Ryan Braun or cycling’s Lance Armstrong have convinced 63 percent of those surveyed by Gallup that steroid abuse is serious in professional sports. But that awareness clearly hasn’t trickled down to provide an understanding of the steroid dangers facing college and high school kids.

Connecticut state officials routinely commission surveys of teens to help find out what health issues need attention. Except those studies don’t even ask about steroids. “We don’t have an accurate idea of what the [steroid] landscape is here,” admits Rachel Bruno, senior program coordinator for the Governor’s Prevention Partnership.

National polls indicate that something like 1.5 million American teens may be doping on anabolic steroids, with millions more using often-unregulated “nutritional supplements” or synthetic drugs promising help in body sculpting.

More than 20 percent of products sold over the counter at nutrition stores “are contaminated with some form of banned substances, including steroids,” Hooton points out. “The numbers are staggering.”

Hooton has a terrible, personal understanding of what steroids can do to a person. His son Taylor started using anabolic steroids at age 17.

The Texas high school baseball pitcher gained 30 pounds, pounded the floor during rage episodes, stole money from his parents, suffered severe acne down his back, and became depressed after coming off the drug. In July 2003, Taylor hanged himself.

The tragedy was widely publicized, and the Taylor Hooton Foundation has been working ever since to convince people how dangerous steroids can be.

Most people probably already know about the abrupt mood swings and ‘roid rage that steroids can trigger. But that’s only the beginning.

How about “testicular shrinkage,” reduced sperm count, impotence, balding, and enlarged prostates for guys? Girls can see facial hair growth and find they have deeper, more man-like voices, “enlargement of genitals, and reduction in breast size.”

If that’s not enough, scientists say steroid abuse can also cause stunted growth in teens by forcing puberty changes and making the skeleton mature sooner than normal; trigger high blood pressure, jaundice, and severe acne; and damage fertility.

Last November, a study published in the magazine Pediatrics indicated just how widespread the teen steroid epidemic really is.

The report by researchers at the University of Minnesota surveyed nearly 2,800 teenagers. The average age of those kids was 14.

Nearly six percent of the boys and 4.6 percent of the girls admitted using steroids. Another 5-10 percent of all teens said they used creatine or other body-building protein products.

One of the more disturbing trends, according to Hooton, is that more teenage girls now appear to be using steroids. Their goal isn’t to add weight and muscle – which is what teen boys usually take ‘roids for. Most girls are believed to be trying to tone their bodies to improve their appearance.

“This is not just limited to the starting linemen on your high school football team,” insists Hooton. “It’s a widespread social behavior among our kids.”

That Gallup poll on attitudes toward teen steroid use was released this past May. It was commissioned by the Taylor Hooton Foundation and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The survey of more than 1,000 American adults found that steroid abuse was considered less of a problem for teens than marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, sexually transmitted diseases, obesity, eating disorders and bullying.

Those are also the sorts of problems identified by state health and education officials, according to Bruno. “We’re not seeing [steroid abuse issues] in vast numbers like underage drinking, binge drinking, prescription drug abuse and marijuana use,” she says.

Hooton says he gives talks to lots of high school coaches and officials, most of whom believe they don’t really have much of a steroid abuse problem. He always asks them to come up and explain “how this epidemic has missed your school [because] it’s going on everywhere.”

Brian Cunningham, who graduated from Southington High this year, doesn’t want to talk about where he got his steroids or about friends who were also using.

Yes, the steroids helped him build up his body as he’d hoped. Yes, he remembers mood swings and periods of anger. “I knew it was that,” Cunningham says. “It was a little scary.”

No, he didn’t use steroids to help him with his high school sports career. “It wasn’t for football at all,” Cunningham insists. “It was after football… It was just to try it out.”

Cunningham’s brush with the law is not likely to have any lasting consequences. He says he was granted “accelerated rehabilitation,” a program that will allow his arrest and the charges to be wiped from his record if he completes his court-ordered probation. (The court records have already been sealed.) “I have to do a couple of community service hours and that’s about it,” he shrugs.

“It was a simple mistake,” Cunningham adds, saying his advice to other teens would be simply, “Don’t do it.”

The trouble is, solving the broader problem of teenage steroid abuse doesn’t seem simple at all.,0,3348215.story

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One Response to Steroid Abuse Among Connecticut Teenagers is a Growing Problem

  1. Eric says:

    Anabolic steroids are not for children. They are to be treated with respect like any controlled substance should. A child simply is incapable of doing that. However I believe that the kid who killed himself probably already suffered from depression prior to taking AAS. And his lack of knowledge shows because people take and get off steroids safely every day, adults, children don’t do most anything properly. Parents should be aware of what their children are doing and taking and if they notice a strange package show up, well, seems like that’s in internal household problem and not something that should be now a worldwide issue where people are now being censored and sued because of their beliefs and talking about the effects of AAS. This is purely a witch hunt in a means to help a family grieve. Nothing more. Taken out on many innocent civilians who happen to take AAS safely, and don’t forget these hormones are legal in other countries. THF has found a way to censor people in a country where AAS is legal, and file lawsuits against them. This is just nonsense in my educated experienced opinion on the issue. Steroids are hormones. Children in their teenage years experience an overload of hormones as it is. Once again the use of AAS is not meant to be taken by children. But does THF care about the millions of females taking pis everyday to not get pregnant? Once again, a hormonal medication. Why aren’t these controlled substances? And the “20% of GNC products tainted with illegal AAS” is just not true anymore. Maybe 3-4 years ago. Laws are stricter now to keep dumb children from injuring themselves, meanwhile someone who is of a legal age and can SAFELY use these products now no longer can, because of witch hunts like these. AAS is a minuscule problem that won’t scratch the surface when other drugs and violence and other issues are concerned. If your child is smoking crack that’s a hell of a lot worse than an adult taking steroids to help his goals. In addition used properly, they work and won’t cause “roid rage”, that’s a media myth to keep the uninformed, uninformed. What does THF actually know about steroids except “they’re bad”? I doubt much at all. One person kills himself so let the witch hunt begin right? I’m sure no other drugs or medications were at play in the role of THF son’s death.. It must have been the steroids. (Sarcasm..) obviously the teenager from Southington didn’t have such a horrible reaction that he killed himself so now we are to assume that every other child will? Steroids have been used safely and effectively for many decades so why the outcry now? Handle your issues internally, and stop trying to suppress people that are doing no harm. Taylor Houton was a drug addict. No one steals to support their AAS habit. Drug addicts steal to support their habits. Plenty of adults support their use daily without causing anyone harm so why are you involving adults in your witch hunt THF? None of them are supporting the use by children. Your anger stemming from your child’s death should be used to grieve with your family not with the world. I’m not worried that my post will probably get censored or deleted because if it does, well, obviously THF cannot face the truth, and I can screenshot and post this elsewhere that they can’t.