HGH – is Human Growth Hormone -
the new elixir of youth?
Growth Hormone is said to boost memory and libido – and reverse aging, but as women AND men inject Human Growth Hormone…
Having recently passed his 40th birthday, Graham Marks was beginning to notice how the years were taking their toll.
Despite being a dedicated gym-goer, he had started to put on weight and found his energy levels flagging. But the final straw came when he tore a ligament in his leg. Doctors told him it would take him three months of wearing a brace before he would recover.
Unhappy about such a long lay-off, Graham, who runs a successful electronics business in the South of England, turned to the other men in his gym for advice on how to speed up the healing process. Almost unanimously, they suggested he did what they did — start injecting himself with a substance called human growth hormone (HGH).
More and more people are using HGH, the Human Growth Hormone in pursuit of youth. Naturally made in the pituitary gland, the hormone stimulates growth. In the past, it was harvested from corpses before being injected into below-average-height children. Now synthesized in laboratories, it is being used in ways never originally intended.
‘I found some for sale on the internet, bought it and started taking it,’ he says. ‘And my leg recovered in just six weeks.’
That was 18 months ago and Graham hasn’t looked back. He was so impressed by the effect it had on his body that he injects himself with £10 worth of the drug every single day. In that time, he has lost two-and-a-half-stone in weight and put on a noticeable amount of muscle. But, he says, there is more.
‘In my opinion, HGH is a miracle drug. When used in moderation, it will slow down aging in the body. And it helps to heal everything quicker. Last year, when the bad flu went around, I had friends who were ill with it for up to two weeks. I caught it and recovered in a few days.’
On top of that, he noticed an increase in his sexual libido and improvement in the condition of his skin. A friend who is also using it reported that his thinning hair had started to re-grow.
They are extraordinary claims and ones that are echoed not only in the world of muscle-bound fitness-fanatics but also among those who simply want to halt the body’s aging process in its tracks.
Earlier this summer, singer Robbie Williams admitted he had consulted doctors in LA about taking HGH simply so he could look and feel younger.
‘It’s what all the old fellas are on in LA — it makes them look 40 instead of 60,’ said Williams, who is 37. ‘It’s improving their health, their memory, their hair and skin.’ (In the end, the singer opted for a course of testosterone injections instead.)
Singers looking for a miracle: Robbie Williams admits to having consulted doctors about using HGH and Madonna is rumored to have used it
Women, too, are flocking to try out what has been dubbed ‘cosmetic surgery in a syringe’. The youthful-looking trio of Demi Moore, Jennifer Aniston and Madonna are all rumored to have had HGH jabs.
Dr Lionel Bissoon is one of America’s leading anti-aging gurus. The rich and famous queue up at his New York clinic to be treated with the drug.
‘For many, this is the fountain of youth and it’s very, very popular,’ he says. ‘My patients say they look good, feel strong and even sleep better. Very few people are disappointed.’
Of course, the ministrations of Dr Bissoon do not come cheap: regular treatment can cost up to £1,200 a month. And therein lies the rub. The vast majority of those using HGH both here and in America cannot afford such costs. Instead, they purchase it over the internet from foreign-based websites and then inject themselves.
In so doing, they blindly trust that what they are sent actually does contain some HGH — rather than being counterfeit or contaminated with unknown substances that could harm or even kill them.
But that isn’t the only risk. HGH is not licensed as an anti-aging drug. While some studies have suggested it can help the body heal itself and improve athletic performance, other experts believe its anti-aging abilities have been wildly exaggerated.Worse still, there are growing concerns about the dangers that HGH may pose to health.
Studies show that high levels can lead to swelling of the soft tissues in the body; abnormal growth of the hands, feet and face; high blood pressure; blood clots; diabetes; increased sweating; and excessive hair growth.
Organs — including the heart, liver and kidneys — may also undergo excessive growth, leading to potentially life-threatening problems such as cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle. Cancer risks are also thought to increase.
Acting young: Jennifer Aniston and Demi Moore are also rumoured to have used HGH to make them look younger
Given that, many will be surprised at just how easy HGH is to obtain in this country.
Manufactured under trade names such as Saizen, Genotropin, Norditropin, Humatrope, Zomacton and Nutropin aq, there are dozens of websites offering it for sale.
The vast majority of these are unregulated and based abroad, thereby sidestepping any risk of prosecution under British laws.
Like steroids, HGH is a class C drug which is illegal to supply. It should only be available from a doctor on prescription to treat severe growth disorders or conditions such as Aids-related muscle wastage. But at the same time, it is not illegal to possess, if possession is for personal use.
In other words, if someone is caught with relatively small amounts of HGH, they are unlikely to have any action taken against them.
And so the internet has become the main channel into the UK and its use — once confined to athletes hoping to gain an illegal edge — has become widespread.
Only last year, a gym in Bristol had to install needle-bins in the men’s toilets because so many people were using the drug (one gym member told how empty vials of HGH had been found on the premises and how he had seen people openly injecting themselves. Syringes had been left in the changing rooms and even on the gym floor.)
Meanwhile, online keep-fit forums are awash with people trading information and advice about the drug.
‘In my opinion, HGH is a miracle drug. When used in moderation, it will slow down ageing in the body. And it helps to heal everything quicker’
Last week, a man calling himself Big Chris posted the following: ‘I’m 21 about 18-19st — that’s fat not muscle. I used to be a bit of a gym buff, 13st of muscle but went to seed when I met my girlfriend. I’ve just started getting back into the gym and I’m considering going on HGH.’
Another wrote: ‘I’m considering getting some HGH — reason being is a few of my fellow gym buddies are on it and say it’s great, they are losing weight and have more energy, fewer aches and pains. What would you expect to pay for HGH? I’m about to pay for ten days’ supply.’
What this man is about to purchase will no doubt have been imported from abroad. And, more worryingly, he will have no idea as to what it is he is about to start injecting into himself.
The dangers of this Russian roulette approach to self-medication were highlighted last year in a series of raids by police and officers from the Medicines And Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Targeting websites selling drugs like HGH, they seized more than £500,000 worth of medicines.
Tests on the confiscated pharmaceuticals showed high levels of counterfeiting and contamination with other drugs, suggesting those making them fail to clean equipment in between manufacturing runs.
‘The dangers of purchasing medicines from an unregulated source are that you just don’t know what you are taking,’ said Mick Deats, MHRA head of enforcement.
‘The dosages could be either too high or too low, contain no pharmaceutical ingredient or a totally different ingredient to that stated. Illegal suppliers have no quality control or standards to abide by.
‘If customers could see the filthy conditions in which some of these medicines were being transported, stored and handled, they wouldn’t touch them.’
Scalpel or syringe? Using HGH has become seen as a viable alternative to plastic surgery – for men and women
But it is not just gym-users who are taking HGH. The anti-aging industry in the US is worth 88 billion and in the UK worth £300 million a year. As in America, private clinics are offering the drug as a treatment.
The main role of HGH in the body is to boost growth during childhood. As people reach their mid-30s, our natural production of the hormone begins to slow. By topping up those levels, the belief is that the effects of aging can be countered.
While it is not illegal to prescribe drugs such as HGH for conditions for which they were not originally licensed, many doctors, such as Lionel Bissoon, insist they only ever use HGH after extensive blood and hormone tests show there is a deficiency.
But there is still a surprising reluctance — in this country, at least — to talk about the treatment.
‘HGH is big news in anti-aging,’ said a Surrey-based doctor whose website advertises the anti-ageing benefits of HGH, but who asked not to be named.
‘But I won’t use it for anyone who isn’t actually deficient in it. To establish that means expensive blood tests, which will cost the patient over £500.
‘After that, if you have a dose of 0.4mg a day, it will cost about £500 a month, possibly up to £1,000 depending on the practitioner. After that, you will need frequent monitoring, which means more blood tests — and more money. It can run into thousands a year.
‘Most people who call me are taken aback by the price. They tell me they can get it much cheaper on the internet but, as I tell them, if they buy from anyone who isn’t a genuine medical doctor, which I am, they don’t know what they are getting into.’
‘It certainly didn’t make me look any younger. But even the positive effects were temporary. I lost some fat, but not my wrinkles. My feeling is that the benefits have been exaggerated’
One person who has first-hand experience of its effects is Dr Cecilia Tregear, a Harley Street medic who specializes in hormone treatments.
‘I took HGH several years ago,’ she admits. ‘I tried it when I turned 50 to find out if all the fuss was justified. What I noticed were initial, apparently positive effects on my energy levels and my libido rather than physical changes.
‘It certainly didn’t make me look any younger. But even the positive effects were temporary. I lost some fat, but not my wrinkles. My feeling is that the benefits have been exaggerated.’
Her view is backed up by a review of all the research into HGH conducted by scientists at Stanford University in California in 2007. It concluded that using the growth hormone resulted in small changes in body composition and an increased likelihood of conditions such as diabetes.
‘On the basis of this evidence,’ said the review, ‘growth hormone cannot be recommended as an anti-ageing therapy.’
But words such as that are unlikely to carry much truck with the likes of Graham Marks who believe that, in HGH, they have found the secret to eternal youth.
‘I know that I’m never going to be young again, but this stuff keeps me younger longer,’ he says. ‘I honestly feel it has taken at least a decade off my body age.’
But could it actually end up taking years off his life? It is something that he and the others taking part in this dangerous experiment will only discover when it is too late.
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