Puberty blockers reduce suicide among transgender youth
A new study has discovered that transgender youth that have greater access to puberty blockers have lower risk of suicide and mental health problems.
However, a number of US states– like South Dakota, South Carolina, and Missouri– are considering laws that would make it a felony for healthcare providers to prescribe medication to stop puberty.
Puberty blockers keep trans youth alive
The recent study, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, was the first of its kind to look into access to pubertal suppression and suicidality.
The study noted that 16.9 percent of those surveyed among the transgender community wanted pubertal suppression. But of those surveyed, only 2.5 percent received this treatment.
Of those who underwent the treatment, they had lower risk of lifetime suicidal ideation and past-month severe psychological distress as compared to those who wanted the treatment but didn’t get it.
Alex Keuroghlian, one of the authors of the study, said: “We found that youth who desired pubertal suppression and received it had a third the odds of lifetime suicidal ideation when compared to youth who desired pubertal suppression but did not receive it.”
The research was based on data from the 2015 US Transgender survey involving 20,619 people from the ages 18 to 36 years old.
“We know that access can offer protective effects. This is something that will help a parent keep their child safe,” said Dr. Michelle Forcier, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
Puberty blockers: What do they do?
Under the therapy of puberty blockers, medical personnel inject a compound or use an implant that copies the actions of a puberty-stimulating hormone in the brain, a gonadotropin-releasing hormone.
This noninvasive process desensitizes the pituary gland from the hormone and pauses puberty. However, this process is reversible as puberty starts again after the drugs are stopped.
Jack Turban of Massachusetts General Hospital and the lead author of the study said: “Transgender youth often experience distress during puberty as their body begins to develop in a way that does not match who they know themselves to be.”
This treatment option became available in the US in 1998 and is now quite common.
“Historically, we have known the puberty blockers are safe and effective and this is totally reversible, so the benefits far outweigh any risk,” said Forcier.
“It is sort of a no-brainer to make these available in these circumstances,” she added.
Puberty blockers: Against the law?
Republicans in at least ten states have moved to ban any gender-confirmation related medical care for transgender youth, wanting them to wait until they’re 16 or 18 years old to get treatment.
This goes against medical guidelines from several medical associations like the Endocrine Society that recommend doctors offer transgender youth pubertal suppression therapy.
Forcier said the drugs are expensive and not all children have access to the appropriate providers.
Dr. Rachel Levine, secretary of health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, said: “It is also critically important as far as policy that policy makers do not get in the way of medical standards of care.”
Transgender activist Sue Robbins said of a similar bill in Utah: “We’re taking away the choices of parents and individuals. Transgender healthcare is an affirming action that puts our youth in a better place.”