The Risks and Dangers of Illegal Testosterone
Obtaining testosterone without a prescription is illegal (testosterone is a schedule III controlled substance in the United States), but because of all the hoops you have to jump through, expenses, and issues, we wouldn’t condemn it so strongly if the only issue was that it wasn’t legal. The reason we are so adamant that people should get their testosterone through a doctor is due to the health risks associated with testosterone:
1. Getting testosterone through a doctor requires blood work beforehand to ensure you don’t have any underlying medical conditions that would make taking testosterone dangerous to your health. You may have high cholesterol or an untreated liver condition that you don’t even know about-even if you are young and seemingly healthy. Even if you think you would go through with taking T despite any kind of pre-existing health condition, a doctor could help you treat that condition before starting T or in addition to doing so (for instance, there are many small things you can do to lower your cholesterol while still taking testosterone). Without knowing about these issues you could seriously jeopardize your health.
2. Getting regular blood work while on testosterone is also very important. Testosterone raises one’s red blood cell count and cholesterol and can affect liver functions. Despite the fact that I am very healthy and haven’t had any complications, my hemoglobin raised significantly while on testosterone. This has a very simple fix: regularly donating blood. If I didn’t know about this though I could have faced heart problems and possible stroke.
3. Dosing needs to be precise and careful. Too much testosterone is changed into estrogen by the body, and too much estrogen has been linked to breast cancer and other issues (not to mention feminizing side effects that most transguys would find incredibly frustrating…). Too little testosterone has fewer issues, but the fact of the matter is that hormones are a very important part of bodily functions that should be treated delicately and with caution.
4. Your doctor and other health care professionals need to know all of the medications you are taking, and those who take testosterone illegally often do not share their medical information honestly for fear of legal prosecution. Doctors need to know all the information they can in order to treat you, especially if you have issues that could be related to testosterone (liver problems, reproductive organ issues, high red blood cell count, etc).
5. If you later want to obtain testosterone legally, get top surgery, etc the fact that you once obtained it illegally can make this more difficult. Therapists, endocrinologists, and doctors look at illegal testosterone usage as a sign that the patient is irresponsible or can’t be trusted. Taking testosterone without a prescription is an abuse of a prescription medication, plain and simple, even though you need it just as much and for just as valid reasons as someone with a prescription. It’s unfortunate, but that is how it is viewed by the medical community and that can make your transition more difficult in the long run.
Yes it can be difficult to find helpful doctors and trustworthy, accepting, and affirming medical professionals. Yes it can be expensive or even nearly impossible in some areas and in some situations to obtain testosterone legally. Yes there are a million seemingly pointless hoops to jump through, especially if you are 100% sure you want to physically transition and have been for as long as you can remember. The system is flawed and it often fails us, yet going about it on your own is not the right way to deal with these problems. For your own health and safety please do whatever you can to work with a doctor or other medical professional to ensure you are monitored while taking testosterone.
As stated before, Some Planned Parenthoods have lgbtq clinics where a nurse practitioner can prescribe hormones and monitors levels with prices on a sliding scale. There are also other affordable (compared to an endo) clinics all around the country (US), such as the Howard Brown Clinic in Chicago; Tom Waddell Clinic in San Francisco, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York; Planned Parenthood clinics in Nebraska, Iowa, California, and other states (those are just the ones I know off the top of my head); The Gender Management Service Clinic in Boston; The Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia; and a handful of clinics at universities such as U of Michigan and U of Minnesota. We don’t know very much about other countries, but it appears as though there are plenty of resources for guys in the UK, Australia, and Canada (seek out those who would know more information via tumblr or youtube). If you have any questions about how to acquire testosterone in a safe and legal manner, feel free to ask us and we will do everything we can to help you.