Exeter, Devon UK • Jun 22, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Comment NHS to stop prescribing puberty blockers

NHS to stop prescribing puberty blockers

Katie Matthews investigates the NHS' decision to stop prescribing puberty blockers and its ramifications for trans youth.
2 min read
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Image: Ted Eytan

The NHS is set to stop the regular prescription of puberty blockers for young people. This comes after a review concluded there was not enough evidence for the drug’s safety. The treatments will now only be available through clinical trials to regulate the safety and effectiveness of the hormone drugs. 

Puberty supressing hormones (GnRH) can be used to ‘delay the changes of puberty in transgender and gender-diverse youth’. They are also prescribed to children with precocious puberty, when signs of puberty begin before 7, and for those with endometriosis as they supress the body from producing sex hormones. Putting the brakes on puberty can benefit children, slowing puberty to a natural pace. Coinciding with such scientific developments, was the assumption that puberty blockers could be used to help children with gender dysphoria to feel more comfortable in their bodies. Since then, the drugs have become vital for the mental and physical health of young people experiencing gender dysphoria.  

The drugs have become vital for the mental and physical health of young people experiencing gender dysphoria.  

Whilst its troubling to entirely remove puberty blockers from young people, it is undeniably necessary to develop the drugs to make them safer long term. Unfortunately for some, this means they will be at risk of losing out on the drugs which have become vital for easing thoughts and actions of self-harm, mental health and the self-confidence of young people. They also greatly reduce  the need for future gender affirming surgeries. 

Current risks of the drugs include fertility, risk of cancer and metabolic disease, and cognitive development issues. A longer analysis of the long-term impacts will be beneficial, but the cost of removing prescriptions so suddenly and dramatically could severely impact children currently using the drugs.  

Inevitably there are always moral dilemmas in medicine. This one is coated with questions of how to ‘protect’ a younger generation. It’s floating in the sticky morally grey and likely to project the narrative that children experiencing gender dysphoria should wait and see how they feel later in life, one they neither need nor deserve. Making such blockers only acceptable through clinical trials could add to this dehumanisation of young trans youth.  

Making such blockers only acceptable through clinical trials could add to this dehumanisation of young trans children.

It become important to question the perceived significance of mental health as opposed to the side effects of the blockers, and ultimately how this could perpetuate discrimination and dysphoria for trans youth. Trans people can be neglected as their suffering is often invisible. But it should be a priority to treat all young people, whether their pain is mental or physical.  

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