Teen Use of Synthetic Human Growth Hormone Doubles from 2012 to 2013

Between 2012 and 2013, the use of HGH (Human Growth Hormone) without a prescription more than doubled among teens, grades 9 -12 seeking to improve their athletic performance and/or appearance.  Although the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids who published their results state that these figures highlight teens’ growing interest in performance enhancing substances, the group’s statements about the effects of HGH as a PED (Performance Enhancing Drug) are highly debatable. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids indicate that synthetic HGH stimulates growth and cell production, helping regulate body composition, muscle and bone growth. They further state that HGH can be used to improve athletic performance and appearance by building muscle, “like anabolic steroids.”

A group of researchers from Stanford would disagree with these statements as their study found that, the hormone shots, used by athletes seeking to boost performance, increased lean muscle mass mostly by making the body retain fluids. The Stanford study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine also found that the added bulk not only failed to make individuals stronger, but actually appear to cause athletes to tire and get hurt more easily.

Penn State’s Professor of Health and Human Development, Charles Yesalis raises what might be the benefit of HGH as a PED. Yesalis reported that it has found to be rare that an athlete is taking HGH on it’s own, and that these athletes are taking HGH in conjunction with anabolic steroids. Several other scientists speculate that HGH enhances the strength building family of anabolic steroids.

Many of the side effects of anabolic steroids have been widely publicized, but the side effects from HGH appear to be significantly less publicized which may in turn, provide a sense of its use as posing little risk. However, HGH has been found to have such side effects as Injection-site reactions and to a lesser degree, individuals who use HGH can experience joint swelling, joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and an increased risk of diabetes. These individuals in some cases, can produce an immune response against Growth Hormone. The most severe of the potential side effects, but with the weakest scientific evidence is HGH’s risk factor for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

It would appear that the bigger news from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is their other findings included in their report which include:
– One in five teenagers said they had at least one friend who used steroids.
– The same percentage also said they thought it was easy to get steroids either online or from others who are thought to have obtained the steroids from the internet.
– The percentage of teens who considered use of synthetic HGH without a valid prescription a “great” or “moderate” risk, decreased by 5% from just one year prior (2012).

Growth Hormones in Our Milk:
In the United States, the FDA allows the agricultural industry to legally give a bovine Growth Hormone to dairy cows to increase milk production, although the FDA has made it illegal to give such hormones to cows raised for beef.

So I guess it’s ok for our society to ingest growth hormone via milk, but hey don’t worry, you and your family don’t have to worry about ingesting these hormones from eating beef.

This would appear to fit into the norm of the FDA’s long history of inconsistent guidelines, which are often found to either not be adhered to. That’s ok, because we all have seen the reports (that are known about publicly) about the other contaminants that wind up in our food. That’s a whole other conversation, which I can’t get into right now as I still have half a gallon of milk to finish before batting practice.

Freedman RJ, Malkovska V, LeRoith D, Collins MT (October 2005). “Hodgkin lymphoma in temporal association with growth hormone replacement”. Journal of Endocrinology, 52(5). pp. 571–575. doi:10.1507/endocrj.52.571.

Liu H, Bravata DM, Olkin I, Friedlander A, Liu V, Roberts B, Bendavid E, Saynina O, Salpeter SR, Garber AM, Hoffman AR (May 2008). “Systematic review: the effects of growth hormone on athletic performance”. Annals of Internal Medicine, 148(10). pp. 747–758. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-148-10-200805200-00215.

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids & deKadt Marketing and Research, Inc. (2014). The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study Teens & Parents 2013: The 25th annual Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS). Retrieved from:

Swerdlow AJ, Higgins CD, Adlard P, Preece MA (2002). “Risk of cancer in patients treated with human pituitary growth hormone in the UK, 1959-85: a cohort study”. Lancet 360 (9329): 273–7. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(02)09519-3.

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