Puberty blockers can be ‘life-saving’ for trans teens, study shows

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Access to puberty blockers can be ‘life-saving’ for trans youth, a new study has found.

We already know that trans youth have a disproportionate risk of suicide when compared to their cisgender counterparts, a statistic that’s been acknowledged by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Now, a new study published in the medical journal Pediatrics has become the first to examine the link between access to puberty blockers as an adolescent and future suicidal ideation among trans adults.

Researchers on the study analysed a survey of 20,619 trans adults aged 18 to 36 and found that 16.9% said they’d wanted blockers during adolescence, but only 2.5% actually got them.

Those who received puberty-blocking treatment had lower odds of lifetime suicidal ideation, compared to those who wanted the treatment but were unable to receive it.

Dr Michelle Forcier, a paediatrician who wasn’t part of the study but works with trans patients, told CNN that it’s a “no-brainer” to make puberty blockers available to those who need them.

“Historically we have known the puberty blockers are safe and effective and this is totally reversible, so the benefits far outweigh any risk. It is sort of a no-brainer to make these available in these circumstances,” she said.

“By not allowing their child to use these drugs, that is not a neutral option. This is why this paper is so important. This access is associative into adulthood and is important for safety.

“We know that access can offer protective effects. This is something that will help a parent keep their child safe.”

Forcier said family support is key for trans youth, as well as using their preferred name and pronouns. Puberty blockers can be a “life-saving” option, she added.

The study is especially relevant as South Dakota is currently considering a law that would make it illegal for healthcare providers to prescribe medication to stop puberty. Other states are considering similar measures.

Dr Rachel Levine, secretary of health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, said the study is important as it’s the first to display a link between access to puberty blockers and a decrease in suicidal ideation.

“It is very important for medical professionals to understand scientific studies like this,” she said. “It is also critically important as far as policy that policy makers do not get in the way of medical standards of care.”

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