Human growth hormone (hGH) refers to an ergogenic drug which is naturally produced by the anterior pituitary gland, the metabolic effects of which are arbitrated by the insulin like growth factor hormone. It is “the hormone…responsible for growth and when administered to an adult whose growth has stopped increases protein synthesis” (Bakere, 2008, p. 108).
Originally used as a prescription drug recommended for men over 60 years old, the drug is considered as an anti-aging drug as it enables the “increase of lean body mass, decrease of adipose tissue, and the slow thinning of the skin” (Juhn, 2003, p. 930). In addition to this, the drug is also used on individuals with growth hormone deficiencies, such as the Prader-Willi syndrome, chronic wasting syndrome, and short-bowel syndrome etc. , in order to supplement the deficiency of hGH amongst the individuals with the aforementioned syndromes (Neely & Rosenfeld, 1994, p.
410). The recent use of hGH as a supplement amongst sports athletes, on the other hand, may be attributed to the drugs hypothesized ability to “enhance amino acid glucose uptake in the skeletal muscle, this stimulating protein synthesis… (when) combined with increase of free fatty acid mobilization (serves) as an energy source” (Juhn, 2006, p. 930). Saugy et. al. (2006) further notes that the use of hGH by sports athletes may not only be attributed to its anabolic properties but may also be attributed to “its effects on carbohydrate and fat metabolism” (p.
i35). Eugene McNally & Jayne Hastedt (2007) state that “there are at least six human growth hormone products marketed globally” (p. 275). Since the hGH molecule cannot be absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract nor broken into constituent amino acids orally, the drug is generally administered through injection (Juhn, 2006, p. 930). There are various claims however that the drug can be taken through nasal or sublingual delivery (Juhn, 2003, p. 931). According to Juhn, the safety of these methods however have yet to be proven (2003, p. 931).
Amongst individuals diagnosed with hGH deficiency, the drug is administered by daily injection. The FDA recommended concentrate of hGH intake is usually 600ng (McNally & Hastedt, 2007, p. 275). It is in accordance to the FDA recommendation that hGH is allowed to be used by sports athletes. Saugy et. al. , however state that “the frequency of use and dosage are hard to evaluate (amongst athletes), but underground information suggests that the athletes misusing hGH take 10-25 IU/days three to four times a week…the mean dose (being) about 4 IU/day” (2006, p.
i36). The abuse of hGH amongst athletes may be attributed to its assumed effects of increasing muscle mass and strength (Saugy et. al. , 2006, p. i36). Such effects however, according to Tokish et. al. have not been fully substantiated (2007, p. 1546). In addition to this, Tokish et. al. further notes that the little research done with hGH usage states that although it is possible to associate the use of hGH with the increase in size of muscle, the research results show that it is not associated with increase in strength or performance (Tokish et.
al. , 2007, p. 1546). He states, “these (researches) concluded that there is no evidence that growth hormone supplementation will lead to an increase in performance but merely an increase in muscle size” (Tokish et. al, 2007, p. 1546). Given the lack of substantive information regarding the effectiveness of hGH supplementation for increasing both the muscle mass and the performance of sports athletes, issues have developed regarding the use of the aforementioned drug.
These issues revolve around the ethical and legal aspects of hGH’s use amongst athletes. The ethical aspect of the issue may be attributed to (1) the safety of the drug’s use and (2) the restrictions on the drug’s use within the context of national and international competitions. Marceline Burns & Donald Bartel (2006), in their book Medical-Legal Aspects of Drugs, outlines the various side effects linked to high hGH levels in adult.
According to Burns & Bartel, high levels of hGH in adults may cause the following: (1) tumefaction of soft tissue, (2) hypertrophy and bone protuberance, (3) thickening of the skin, (4) hirsustism, (5) hypersection of sebaceous glands, (6) increase in perspiration, (7) peripheral neuropathies, (8) myopathies, (9) hypertrophy of the visceras, (10) colon polyps, (11) cardiovascular diseases, and (12) glucose intolerance (2006, p. 191). In addition to this, Saugy et. notes that the misuse of hGH I adults may also lead to the following: (1) osteoporosis, (2) menstrual irregularities, and (3) impotence (2006, p.
i37). Given that the misuse of hGH may lead to the aforementioned adverse effects, the ethical issue is apparent as one considers whether the use of the drugs will prove to be beneficial for sports athletes given that there is no substantial proof that it provides the desired results from its continuous consumption. Coupled with the legal issue which is a result of the restriction of the drug’s use within the context of national and international competitions, the use of hGH proves to be detrimental to the athlete.
Within this context, one may state that given that the use of hGH does not assure the achievement of its desired ends but assures the attainment of negative adverse effects on the part of the sports athlete, the use of the aforementioned drug supplement is not recommended. An athlete must thereby stick to the usual exercise methods that will enable him to achieve the ends that are promised by hGH supplementation. References Bakere, S. (2008). Hot Topics in Sports and Athletics. Np: Nova. Burns, M. & D. Bartel. (2006). Medical-Legal Aspects of Drugs.
Np: Lawyers & Judges Publishing Company. Juhn, M. (2003). Popular Sports Supplements and Ergogenic Aids, Sports Med, 33. 12, 921-939. McNally, E. & J. Hastedt. (2007). Protein Formulation ad Delivery. Np: CRC P. Neely, E. & R. Rosenfeld (1994). Use and Abuse of Growth Hormone. Annu. Rev. Med, 45, 407-420. Saugy, M. et. al. (2006). Human Growth Hormone Doping in Sports, Br. J. Sports Med, 40, i35-i39. Tokish, J et. al. (2004). Ergogenic Aids: A Review of Basic Science, Performance, Side Effects, and Status in Sports. Am. J. Sports Med, 2004, 32, 1543-1553.