Analysis: Medical professionals should listen to the science on the dangers of puberty blockers

by mcardinal

Lauren Dempsey, MS in Biomedicine and Law, RN, FISM News 


Puberty-blocking medications have been hailed by the left as a safe method of halting puberty in children that are “gender confused” or suffer from “gender dysphoria.” In an effort to appeal to leftist ideologies physicians, politicians, and activists have rushed to affirm and prescribe these drugs, even though research shows that there are significant risks associated with the practice which can result in lifelong damage.

Puberty-blockers are drugs given to children to “stop or slow the progress of puberty” so that confused children can avoid “stressful and unpleasant emotions for children who don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth,” according to WebMD

Several health organizations such as the Endocrine Society support this early treatment in children who identify as transgender. The organization released a statement saying that medical treatment including “puberty suppression, hormone therapy, and medically indicated surgery,” was “effective, relatively safe (when appropriately monitored)” and “has been established as the standard care.” 

Advocates like Dr. Stephen Rosenthal claim that the effects are “completely reversible” adding “You take them off it, and they resume puberty.” Medical professionals like Rosenthal argue, in an effort to be inclusive, that children who change their minds can simply stop taking the medication and get their bodies back, disregarding scientific evidence that shows that this is not true. 

Dr. Michael Laidlaw, an endocrinologist, found that children who were on puberty blockers had significantly less bone density than other children their age, causing stunted height and increasing the risk for fracture and osteoporosis. He also noted that puberty blockers can cause sterility, heart disease, risk of cancer, and psychosis.  

One study conducted in the United Kingdom found that many children who stop taking puberty-blocking medications do not resume puberty. Researchers found all but one child with gender dysphoria went on to take cross-sex hormones and permanently alter their gender.

The study also revealed that bone density, normal growth, and psychological well-being were much worse when compared to their peers. Interestingly, the children in the study were encouraged to freeze their sperm or ovum prior to treatment, which would indicate that clinicians were aware of the long-term physical effects that the medications could have on reproductive development. 

One drug that is frequently administered is Lupron, which is a gonadotropin hormone-releasing agonist, that suppresses estrogen and testosterone and subsequently halts puberty. Lupron, however, is not FDA approved for this use. It is approved to treat prostate cancer, endometriosis, and precocious puberty. Lupron has been reported to the FDA over 24,000 times for adverse reactions, half of which are categorized as serious, causing severe joint pain, osteoporosis, weakened immune system, depression, and suicidal ideation.  

Even knowing these side effects and long-term consequences physicians still prescribe these medications to children while claiming that it is completely reversible. In “What is a Woman,” a documentary that will be released on June 1,political commentator Matt Walsh interviews experts and physicians on the subject. In a clip posted to Twitter, Dr. Michelle Forcier talks with Walsh about prescribing puberty blockers but appears reluctant to answer questions on why a drug used to chemically castrate sexual predators is being used on children. 

The medical community appears to be at odds over the best standard of practice for children that identify as transgender, with many doctors seemingly unaware of this problem. Dr. Rachel Levine, a biological male who identifies as a female, denies any disagreement saying, “There is no argument among medical professionals – pediatricians, pediatric endocrinologists, adolescent medicine physicians, adolescent psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. – about the value and importance of gender-affirming care.” However, to acknowledge the divide in the medical community would be to acknowledge that the science does not correlate with gender-affirming ideology. 

Many countries such as Sweden, Finland, and the United Kingdom are banning or placing strict guidelines on the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones for minors, noting the known and unknown adverse effects that this treatment can have on children. However, the United States remains one of the most progressive countries in terms of using these drugs, regardless of what long-term research is revealing. 

Liberal commentator Bill Maher addressed this issue on his show Friday, saying, “We’re literally experimenting on children. Maybe that’s why Finland and Sweden have stopped giving puberty blockers to kids, because we just don’t know much about the long-term effects. Although common sense should tell you that when you reverse the course of raging hormones there’s going to be problems.”

“This isn’t just a lifestyle decision, it’s medical. Weighing tradeoffs is not bigotry,” Maher added. “Kids also do have phases. … Kids are fluid about everything. If kids knew what they wanted to be at age 8, the world would be filled with cowboys and princesses.”