Teen usage of synthetic human growth hormone increased by 120 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to results from the latest Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS).
The study sampled 3,705 teens from grade nine to grade 12 and 750 parents. Eleven percent of teens reported using synthetic human growth hormone at least once without a prescription — up from 5 percent in 2012.
The study also found a higher percentage of African American (15 percent) and Hispanic (13 percent) teens used synthetic HGH compared with 9 percent of Caucasian teens. The gender disparity was not as significant — 12 percent of teen boys reported using synthetic HGH compared with 9 percent of teen girls.
Synthetic HGH has medical applications, as it stimulates growth and cell production and is used to combat muscle deterioration resulting from HIV and pituitary gland tumors. However, taken illicitly, HGH can be used to improve athletic performance and appearance, similar in this respect to anabolic steroids.
The PATS data showed a strong correlation between use of synthetic HGH and steroids. One in five teens had at least one friend who used steroids, while the same percentage believe it is easy to obtain steroids.
“These new data point to a troubling development among today’s teens. Young people are seeking out and using performance-enhancing substances like synthetic HGH – and supplements purporting to contain HGH – hoping to improve athletic performance or body appearance without really knowing what substances they are putting into their bodies,” said Steve Pasierb, president of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
Pasierb pointed to the availability of supplements, which can be marketed as containing synthetic HGH or promoting the natural production of HGH, as a cause for increased usage. While prescription and over-the-counter medicine must be tested, supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
“That creates a false perception of safety driving impressionable teens to risk their health with potentially dangerous products that are untested,” Pasierb said.
The PATS data reflected a decrease in the perceived risk teens associate with unprescribed synthetic HGH — 81 percent of teens in 2013 considered it a “great” or “moderate” risk compared with 86 percent in 2012.