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Are puberty blockers dangerous for minors?

“Evidence is emerging of the potential harm” entailed by treatments with puberty blockers that are prescribed for minors with gender dysphoria. This is what Megan Twohey and Christina Jewett, investigative journalists for the New York Times, found after examining seven studies conducted in the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands with 500 transgender teenagers between 1998 and 2021.

One of the problems of these drugs is related to deficiencies in bone development. “During the teenage years”, the journalists point out, “bone density usually increases between 8 and % per year. (…) The researchers observed that, while taking blockers, adolescents did not gain bone density on average, and lost a lot compared to their peers”.

As Twohey and Jewett, who also interviewed several physicians, patients and parents, “many physicians who treat trans patients believe that they will recover this loss when they stop using blockers. But two review studies that tracked the bone density of trans patients while on the blockers and during the first few years of treatment with opposite-sex hormones found that many do not recover for complete and lag behind their peers”.

The journalists also found that in the US, where the Biden government has declared that transgender medicine is “a civil right”, there are no parameters for acting to determine the damage of blockers in the skeletal system. “Although the Endocrine Society recommends bone exploration exams as a reference, and repeat them annually or every two years (…) the US Academy of Pediatrics provide little guidance in this regard. (…) As most treatments are offered outside the scrutiny of studies and research, there is little public documentation of the results.”

The journalists emphasize that, in view of the damage found in the population under age, several countries suspended or modified their protocols: in October, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom restricted the use of blockers in young people with dysphoria only in proximity to research, while Sweden and Finland also limited the treatments and have given greater emphasis to the psychiatric investigation of minors who request to undergo a “sex change”, instead of referring them to any pharmacological or surgical therapy.

Meanwhile, in the United States , many doctors continue to prescribe the blockers. In some cases, they prescribe them for ages as young as eight, and the opposite-sex hormones for the 12 or 13 years. All while waiting for a survey to order ed by the National Institutes of Health to four gender clinics in the country in 2015 contributes to reducing uncertainty. “They still have to inform the key results of their work, but they say that the discoveries will arrive quickly.”

However, the damage verified in the bone system would not be the only ones. There would be direct damage to the nervous system, according to studies consulted by the New York team Times. “Some clinicians and researchers fear that puberty blockers somehow interrupt a period of mental growth,” as “sex hormones have been shown to affect social and problem-solving skills.”

Twohey and Jewett report that, in an article published in 2020 by 31 psychologists , neuroscientists and endocrinologists from several countries, were asked to investigate further the effects of puberty blockers on the brain. One of the authors, Dr. Sheri Berenbaum, from Pennsylvania, where she runs a gender research lab, wondered, “If the brain expects to get these hormones at a certain time and it doesn’t, what happens? We don’t know.”

©2022 ACEPRENSA. Published with permission. Original in 2022Spanish2022.

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