Trans children who took puberty-blocking drugs had mental health issues, UK study found

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Taking puberty-blocking drugs has been shown to cause mental health issues in trans children, according to a recent analysis from the University of Essex.

In re-examining the results of a previous study, the U.K. researchers determined that one-third of the youth with gender dysphoria (GD) experienced a decline in mental health after taking triptorelin.

Sold under the brand name Trelstar, triptorelin is a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist that reduces the amount of certain hormones in the body.

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The original study, which came from NHS’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) at Tavistock and University College London Hospitals (UCLH) in 2021, analyzed 44 children between the ages of 12 and 15 who took puberty-blocking drugs.

Depressed teen

Taking puberty-blocking drugs has been shown to cause mental health issues in trans children, according to a recent analysis from the University of Essex. (iStock)

The children were all deemed “psychologically stable,” but all of them had been classified as having gender dysphoria, with a “high likelihood of extreme psychological distress with ongoing pubertal development,” the study authors wrote in the journal entry discussing the findings.

At the time, the researchers determined that the drugs had no impact on the kids’ mental health over a 36-month follow-up period.

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The new analysis of the study, however, determined that 34% of the trans youth experienced a decline in mental health while taking puberty blockers.

At the same time, 37% reported no change in mental health and 29% noticed an improvement.

To determine the extent of mental health changes, the researchers looked at emotional factors (anxiety, depression, social withdrawals and somatic complaints) as well as behavioral signals, such as attention problems and aggressive behaviors, according to the researchers. They also analyzed sleep difficulties.

Depressed teen

While the original study combined the overall average of all kids’ mental well-being, the new analysis looked at each child’s individual psychological health, which revealed more variation among them. (iStock)

While the original study combined the overall average of all kids’ mental well-being, the new analysis looked at each child’s individual psychological health, which revealed more variation among them.

“This is the first analysis of U.K. data on children aged 12 to 15 with GD taking puberty blockers demonstrating individual level change as opposed to testing differences between group averages,” the study authors wrote in a journal entry describing the findings. “As such, this analysis gives a fuller picture of the benefits and risks of treatment.”

The new analysis determined that 34% of the trans youth experienced a decline in mental health while taking puberty blockers.

“We recommend that these approaches be incorporated into new gender dysphoria services being established in the U.K., as well as new research studies being designed,” they added.

The new analysis was posted to medRxiv, a preprint service for health studies, but has not yet been peer-reviewed.

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The study did have some limitations. It included a small sample size of youth and there was no control group. There was also a limited dataset available for the children who were studied.

Also, the results show association but not necessarily causation, as there may have been other factors that could have affected the children’s mental health.

Teen taking pill

Sold under the brand name Trelstar, triptorelin is a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist that reduces the amount of certain hormones in the body. (iStock)

A spokesperson from Tavistock and Portman Trust, which conducted the original study, provided the following statement to the Daily Mail:

“We are grateful to all of the clinicians and academics who have contributed to this study over the years, and we welcome new peer-reviewed analyses of the evidence around how to support these young people.”

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“The analysis plan for the original study was independently produced by experts in medical statistics, and the underlying data was published so that other researchers might conduct further analyses.”

Fox News Digital has reached out to Tavistock and Portman Trust for further comment.

Dr. Brett Osborn, a Florida neurosurgeon and longevity expert, was not involved in either of the studies, but shared with Fox News Digital that he was not surprised by the impact of puberty blockers on kids’ mental health.

Dr. Brett Osborn

Dr. Brett Osborn, a Florida neurosurgeon and longevity expert, noted that “the human brain — and in particular the developing brain — is particularly sensitive to and reliant on circulating hormone levels to function optimally.” (Dr. Brett Osborn)

“The human brain — and in particular the developing brain — is particularly sensitive to and reliant on circulating hormone levels to function optimally,” said Osborn.

Sex hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone — the ones that were suppressed in the study population using triptorelin — also play a major role in mood regulation and cognition, the doctor noted.

“Not only our bodies, but our brains, function best with optimal hormone levels.”

“Optimal progesterone levels are also important for sleep, whereas low levels are associated with insomnia and mood lability (mood swings),” Osborn said.

Additionally, estrogen levels affect neurotransmitters in the mood centers of the brain, thus impacting emotional experiences, the doctor noted.

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“Estrogen also plays a central role in cognition and our sense of general well-being — for both men and women,” Osborn said. “Men and women need progesterone and estrogen for optimal brain development and function.”

Testosterone is also largely responsible for mood and well-being, the doctor went on — and a lack of it can lead to fatigue, irritability and poor sleep hygiene.

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“Bottom line? Not only our bodies, but our brains, function best with optimal hormone levels,” Osborn concluded. 

“Lowering their levels artificially with medications like triptorelin is potentially dangerous and only contributing to the escalating mental health burden in America.”

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