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Puberty blockers, also called puberty inhibitors, puberty suppressors, or hormone suppressors, are a group of medications used to inhibit puberty. They were originally used to treat children with precocious puberty or other such early onset of puberty. Puberty Blockers are commonly used in the transgender community. In this community, puberty blockers are used to provide transgender youth with time to further explore their identity, while halting the development of their predisposed sex characteristics caused by the onset puberty.
The medication that is used in order to stop puberty comes in two forms: injections or an implant.
The injections are leuprorelin made intramuscularly by a health professional. The patient may need it monthly (Lupron Depot, Lupron Depot-PED) or each 3, 4 or 6 months (Lupron Depot-3 month, Lupron Depot-PED-3 month, Lupron Depot-4 month, Lupron Depot-6 Month). Depot Lupron can cost from $700 to $1,500 a month depending on the country where it is practiced.
The implant is a small tube containing histrelin. The implant needs to be replaced every year, and is implanted subcutaneously in the upper arm. The doctor makes a small cut in the anesthetized skin of the patient and then inserts the implant. The patient must be careful after the operation to keep the cut clean, dry, and to not move the bandage and the surgical strips or stitches used to close the incision on the skin. The drug is then gradually released in the body during 12 months and it has to be replaced by another one later to continue the treatment. The total cost of histrelin treatment with the surgery is $15,000.
The combination of bicalutamide, an antiandrogen, and anastrozole, an aromatase inhibitor, can be used to suppress male puberty as an alternative to GnRH analogues, or in the case of gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty, such as in familial male-limited precocious puberty (also known as testotoxicosis) in boys, where GnRH analogues are ineffective.
Puberty blockers prevent the development of biological secondary sex characteristics that are assigned at birth. They slow the growth of sexual organs and production of hormones. Other effects include the suppression of facial hair, deep voices, and Adam's apples for boys and the halting of breast development and menstruation in girls.
The Transgender Community
Transgender youth are a specific target population of puberty blockers . Children as young as two or three can exhibit signs of being transgender, and may qualify for the use of puberty blockers. Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists (e.g., leuprolide acetate, histrelin) to halt puberty, can be used for transgender youth before the development of natal secondary sex characteristics. Puberty blockers' effects are reversible which alleviates controversy on the usage of puberty blockers for young children.
Puberty blockers serve the transgender community by giving them more time to solidify their gender identity. A positive function of puberty blockers is that it gives the transgender individual a smoother transition into their desired gender identity as an adult.
Although there is limited research on puberty blockers, most of the literature is centered around the transgender population. Giving young children drugs to slow their development is considered controversial by some in the medical community. Critics argue that children's psychological and sexual identity development may be stunted. However, the effects of puberty blockers are reversible. A recent 2015 study published by the Principles of Transgender Medicine and Practice, observed the executive functioning in 20 youth transgender treated with puberty blockers compared to untreated trans youth. They found that there was no difference in performance.
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- Puberty Inhibitors, by Dr. Norman P. Spack MD- TransYouth Family Allies
- Case Study- My son was six when he first demanded a sex change- The Telegraph Online