Note: Please also see our position statement on Self-Prescribed Hormone Use.
What is self-prescribed hormone use?
We use the term “self-prescribed hormone use” to mean using hormones without a prescription from an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. This may also involve not having ongoing and appropriate medical supervision for this hormone use.
What are the risks of using self-prescribed hormones?
There are a host of risks in relation to using hormones without a prescription, as for taking any drug sold illegally. These include but aren’t limited to:
- Illegality and associated legal ramifications for the purchaser and seller: If anyone other than a GP/psychiatrist or pharmacist supplies any pharmaceutical, including hormones, both the supplier and receiver are committing a criminal offence
- Unregulated quality: Hormones that are sold illegally may not have gone through appropriate checks to ensure that they are safe. If you buy illegally-sold hormones, you are risking potentially life-threatening risks to your health because you won’t know that what you are taking is safe
- Not being aware of the effects of the hormones: If you take hormones without medical supervision, you may be doing damage to your health that you aren’t aware of.
There are health risks for anyone taking any kind of pharmaceutical, which is why the majority of pharmaceuticals are regulated under prescription.
Getting a prescription not only means that the drug in question comes from a tested, regulated and reliable source – it means that your prescriber has a duty to take care of you while you are taking it (e.g. your GP may recommend regular blood tests to monitor for any damaging effects). These effects can be life-threatening, and can include liver damage, blood cell abnormalities, and clotting problems. Blood tests can also check your hormone levels and allow your dose to be tailored to your body.
What can I do to reduce the risks?
Get regular blood tests and review your dose with a GP
Talk to a general practitioner (GP) with experience in treating sex and gender diverse people to discuss having regular blood testing. Most GPs will arrange blood tests, even if you have obtained your hormones illegally. They can also review your dose and recommend management of any side-effects you might have experienced.
If you are injecting hormones, you should follow these safe injecting practices:
- wash and clean any that surfaces you are using to prepare your injection (e.g. a table)
- never share any equipment, including the hormones, swabs, needles, and syringes
- always use new and clean equipment. You can get sterile syringes from needle exchanges, which provide a free, anonymous and confidential service
- wash your hands with soap before and after you inject. In addition, don’t help others to inject or let them help you unless hands have been washed. Even then, there is no absolute guarantee that this will stop any infections
- swab the skin area with an antiseptic swab before you inject
- pick up the syringe by the barrel, not the tip
- apply pressure to the area afterwards using a clean cotton-wool ball. Don’t use an antiseptic swab because the antiseptic can stop the blood from clotting
- never re-cap a syringe that is not your own
- never bend the needle or syringe
- dispose of used equipment in disposal containers (fitpacks and sharps bins). These are available from your local needle exchange service.
Who else can I contact for help?
- Emergency Services: The Australia-wide telephone number for ambulance, police and fire services. Ph 000
- Lifeline: An Australia-wide confidential telephone counseling service. Ph 13 11 14
- Victoria Police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLOs): GLLOs are trained in gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex issues. In particular, they can assist by providing discreet, non-judgmental advice if you are considering reporting a crime. For more information, contact Sergeant Scott Davis, Manager of Victoria Police – Gay and Lesbian Advisory Unit, ph (03) 9247 6944 or 0409 534 154, firstname.lastname@example.org. Please see this page for more information. (Note: Similar police programs are available in many other states/territories of Australia.)
- Your local needle exchange program: You can find your local needle exchange program at the ServiceSeeker website. If you don’t have internet access and you are in Victoria, you can contact the Health Information Exchange, which is open from 9am-11pm. Ph (03) 9536 7703 or toll free 1800 627 727
- The Gender Centre: Based in Sydney, The Gender Centre has useful information about safer injecting and avoiding infection (located in the HIV/AIDS fact sheets on their website. They also run a needle exchange program. Ph (02) 9569 2366 in Sydney or toll free 1800 069 115.
- Therapeutic Goods Administration: The TGA is responsible for maintaining standards of healthcare products in Australia. The consumer information section on TGA’s website contains useful information, including safety information and a community questions and answers section.
Download this fact sheet (as a PDF file):