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Everything you need to know about HGH (Human Growth Hormone): the “miracle drug” the world still can’t get enough of.

By Craig Davidson

You won’t need to read this magazine again if what they say about human growth hormone (HGH) is true: it builds muscle and shreds fat. It skyrockets endurance and resuscitates a tired libido. Take it and you’ll never be depressed again. You’ll get smarter. And if you’re an athlete, it’ll give you speed, strength and drawers full of medals. That’s what they — doctors,  athletes and “experts” — have been saying about HGH for years.

What Is HGH?

Human Growth Hormone (HGH, or simply GH) is one of more than 50 hormones our bodies produce over the course of a lifetime. Hormones are responsible for our growth, metabolic rate and sexual function — influencing every part of our bodies, from the smallest cell to the largest organ. Specifically, HGH plays a major role in muscle and bone growth and cellular repair. It also promotes protein deposition and aids in the breakdown of subcutaneous fat.

How Is HGH Made In My Body?

Your anterior pituitary gland manufactures HGH best during your adolescence, regulated throughout the day by your hypothalamus. After this phase of physical development ends, HGH production decreases dramatically. As a result, athletes with pituitary gland issues are typically suspected of HGH use whe­ther they’ve been on it or not.

Is It Legal?

This is where things get a bit murky. Yes, it’s legal, providing you have a medically documented need for it. But if you don’t, HGH can get you into some pretty serious legal trouble.

How Do I Use HGH?

Unlike bioidentical testosterone, which comes in creams, gels, pellets and patches, you can channel HGH into your body only one way: via needles. If self-injection isn’t your thing, HGH isn’t for you. Assuming you’re going through a licensed clinic (you are, aren’t you?), a nurse should show you how it’s done with whichever version you’re prescribed.

How Is It Manufactured In The Laboratory?

Believe it or not, HGH was once harvested from cadavers. They’d crack open a dead dude’s head, lever out the pituitary gland, liquefy the hormone, and inject away. This was the method of choice until HGH users began developing Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease — which, triggered by a rogue protein called prion (often found in impure HGH), chews holes in your brain until your CAT scan looks like a piece of Swiss cheese. So this put the kibosh on HGH for a while.

Scientists, however, eventually discovered the means of synthesising HGH, reproducing its sequence of 191 amino acids using transformed E. coli bacteria or mouse cell lines.  This is known as bioidentical HGH, because our bodies can’t distinguish it from the real thing.

Where Do I Inject It?

This is a matter of significant debate. It’ll be your glutes, biceps, thighs or calves. (Experts have argued for ages over which site best aids ­absorption.) It’s actually a matter of personal ­preference — just make sure the needle goes into your subcutaneous tissue and doesn’t spike a vein. The pin cushion of choice for most users is the buttocks: there’s plenty of “meat” available, and little chance of scraping a nerve with the needle’s shaft — an exceptionally painful experience.

$600 The minimum monthly cost of ­doctor-prescribed hormone-replacement therapy

How Can I Get Some?

To keep things above board in the eyes of the law, you’ve got only one viable option: see a doctor. He’ll administer one of two tests — a pituitary simulation test, or the IGF-1 and IGF-BP3 blood test. Short for insulin-like growth factor, the IGFs indicate growth hormone levels. If these levels are low, some doctors will start patients on an HGH regimen or administer peptides to stimulate HGH production.

Medical opinions vary wildly regarding what constitutes “low” hormone levels. Take testosterone: some doctors claim a blood concentration of 200-300 nanograms per decilitre (n/dl) is perfectly healthy, while others say 800-1000 n/dl is optimal. The same general rule applies for HGH, so everything depends on how your doctor interprets your results.

Let’s face facts, though: it’s widely available illegally, and the typical athletic user doesn’t come by his HGH through strictly legal means. This, however, obviously carries significant risk when it comes to being on the wrong side of the law. But either way, proceed with caution.

NOW, THE SOBERING TRUTH

Here’s the bad news: first, if you’re found in possession of HGH without a prescription you’ll find yourself in hot water with the cops. And if you buy it through China or another Asian country that produces it cheaply, you could get done for importing a controlled substance. Next, the unsupervised use of HGH is as ill-advised as any other form of medical self-diagnosis. Engaging in HGH-related guesswork can weaken your immune system and increase your risk of diabetes and leukaemia — and the long-term effects of HGH use and abuse have yet to be conclusively determined. Remember this sage advice: “A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient.”

How Much Does It Cost?

It starts at $600 a month — and often costs $1000 or more. Some clinics that specialise in hormonal replacement therapy are offering therapeutic doses of testosterone, HGH, and other hormones for $1200–$1500 — which also includes lab work to monitor your hormone levels.

If you’re trolling the lawless side of the HGH river, sources indicate it’s selling for $300-$500 monthly, but here, you incur the usual risks attached to black market dealings: bathtub-grade HGH, inert HGH, or semi-biohazardous material that isn’t HGH at all. One source warns of a friend who injected himself with Armor All that was sold to him as HGH.

Side Effects

Hormones are serious business, and abuse can certainly lead to health issues. The key word here, however, is abuse — as opposed to medically vetted usage under a responsible physician’s supervision.

Acromegaly — a thickening of the bones in the jaw, forehead, and hands — is rumoured to have affected American baseball star Barry Bonds. It’s thought the record-breaking batter’s excessive HGH use caused his head to swell by two full hat sizes. If true, Bonds was clearly engaging in a systematic pattern of abuse.

Other negative side effects include enlargement of the heart and kidneys, ­hypoglycaemia and diabetes.

Benefits

Anecdotally, most guys who’ve used HGH for years say it’s more about things they don’t feel — the chronic aches and pains of ageing. They heal faster, sleep better and have higher energy levels, claiming HGH has vastly improved their quality of life. “A man who is therapeutically low in growth hormone faces higher risks of illness and a general lack in good quality of life,” says Dr Jeffry Life, author of The Life Plan and an associate physician at Cenegenics, a Las Vegas-area clinic specialising in hormone and HGH therapy.

How Often Do I Inject It?

HGH has a short half-life (degradation rate), so daily injections are the norm. Most guys need 1-2 IUs, typically within a single injection.

How Do I Handle It?

Treat this stuff with care. When HGH sits at room temperature for even a few hours, it becomes inert, rendering it useless. Shaking it has the same effect. If pre-mixed pharmaceutical-quality HGH gets warmed or is jostled in transit, you may as well inject bathwater. Mix-it-yourself HGH is somewhat less finicky, but it requires a bit more know-how to administer.

The Verdict: Is It Right for You?

Are you taking a rainbow of pharmaceuticals for muscle aches, to help you sleep and to improve your sex drive and mood? HGH could be an alternative solution — one your body produces naturally — as opposed to becoming dependent on a slew of man-made chemical substances to get you through the day. Our best advice? Read everything you can get your hands on, talk to people who’ve been through an HGH regimen, then see your doctor and get the requisite tests to see if this is the correct course for you and your long-term health.