Waiting times for gender-affirming medications in the UK are out of control. Many trans people, especially young people, are filling the gap by self-medicating. Self-medication (or ‘self-medding’) includes the purchase of prescription medications without a prescription, and the use of unapproved substances for medical purposes.
While it can be a dangerous practice which is not advised, it is easy to understand why some trans people turn to self-medication. Without access to proper gender-affirming care, people feel hopeless – and turn to alternative routes to kick start their transition. Transmasculine people are especially at risk, because testosterone – the hormone used in masculinising therapies – often comes in an injectable preparation like Sustanon.
Injecting at home is extremely risky. Healthcare professionals are trained in how to safely administer injections, but without this training it can be easy to injure yourself or others. Untrained self-injection could cause bleeding, infection, nerve damage, or worse. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that the medication will be delivered properly, and untrained self-injection may actually lead to a decrease in effectiveness.
Needles must be disposed of properly. The medical term for needles and other dangerous objects that require special disposal is ‘sharps’. Because needles come into contact with blood, they are also considered hazardous medical waste. Without proper sharps disposal used needles could cause an injury or infection, not just to you but to your family or to a member of the public.
Transmasculine people who cannot access a prescription for testosterone sometimes try to self-medicate using body-building supplements or testosterone bought from the internet without a prescription. Not only is this dangerous, it may be illegal. Testosterone is a controlled substance in many countries and purchasing it without a prescription could be a crime. Furthermore, drugs and medications acquired without a prescription have no safety regulations. Prescribed testosterone is bio-identical, meaning that it is the same as the testosterone produced naturally by the human body. There is no guarantee that bodybuilding supplements or grey market medications will be safe for consumption, or that they will be in the correct preparation or dosage. Injecting an improperly prepared substance can result in serious health issues.
The same goes for using someone else’s medication. Just because it has been safely prescribed for one person, that doesn’t mean it will be safe for you. No two hormone profiles are the same, and every gender journey is different. Good gender-affirming care tailors hormone therapy to each patient on an individual basis, to ensure that they get the best and safest results.
This doesn’t mean that young transmasculine people have to stay stuck in limbo. GenderGP not only provides an accessible pathway to private prescription, we can also teach you to self-inject safely and provide access to regulated needles and sharps disposal kits. Whatever you need to continue your transition with confidence, our service can help.