Video: Kids and steroids

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/17/2005 8:12:21 PM ET 2005-03-18T01:12:21

Don and Gwen Hooton look at old photographs that are pictures of pain — pain that only parents like the Hootons can comprehend.

Their son, Taylor, used anabolic steroids, feeling pressure to be a better baseball player. When Taylor quit using the drugs, his father says the 17-year-old slipped into a deep depression and took his own life in July 2003.

"It still hurts," says Hooton. "The only way I know how to deal with it is to ring the warning bell in the hopes that no other family has to go through what we've been through."

While its use among professional athletes is generating headlines, steroid use is a growing problem among the nation's youth.

The National Institute for Drug Abuse reports more than half a million eighth- and 10th-grade students are now using steroids. The federal Centers for Disease Control reports steroid use among high school students is up 67 percent since 1991. And there are even younger kids involved, with reported use among seventh-, sixth-, even fifth-graders.

But what worries researchers most is that kids don't recognize the danger. NIDA reports 45 percent of high school seniors just don't think steroids carry a great physical risk like severe heart and liver damage.

Experts say teens think they're invincible.

"There is this aspect of growing up where you have this sense of bravado about, well, 'this isn't really going to affect my life and I can get over this,'" says Barbara Schneider, a sociologist at the University of Chicago.

At Denver's Montbello High School, Don Gatewood wins. He’s a Hall of Fame coach, with seven state titles. His is a no-tolerance, no-excuses steroid policy.

"They don't realize that you don't have to have those quick fixes; the best fixes are a little slower, not so quick," says Gatewood. "Right out here, with hard work."

It’s hard work that could do a lot more than just win championships. It could save lives.

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