Growth hormone use is exploding among pre-teens with wealthy parents seeking out a fast growth solution for kids who don’t measure up to their peers.
There’s no expense Robert, a Manhattan dad, will spare when it comes to helping his son achieve academically and socially — whether it’s getting orchestra seats at a Broadway show to fan an interest in improv, shelling out for tae kwon do lessons to bolster martial arts skills or encouraging honor-roll status with the reward of a caviar dinner.
So, in 2021, when he found out that his son —then 4 feet, 5 inches tall and 12 years old — ranked in the first percentile on the growth chart, he was eager to improve the kid’s circumstances.
Robert, who asked to use a pseudonym for privacy reasons, and his wife took their son to a pediatric endocrinologist.
Various tests revealed that the boy’s short stature was not due to any health concerns. (Being in the first percentile does not mean a child has a growth or weight problem.)
After much consideration, Robert and his wife chose to give their son human growth hormone, at a cost of roughly $3,000, before meeting their insurance deductible.
“We decided to put him on it for the social issues,” Robert said. “We wanted to help him grow, and felt that the reward was worth the risk.”
Well-heeled parents eager to give their children every advantage are demanding human growth hormone prescriptions for their kids, a trend one pediatrician dubbed “cosmetic endocrinology.” Some moms and dads are turning to the injections for medical reasons, though the majority of children deemed short for their age don’t have a medical condition that hinders growth.
Many parents are are just looking to prevent bullying or jumpstart an athletic or modeling career.
“All the rich kids are on them,” one mom, who asked to remind anonymous, told The Post.
“There are some parents who are forcing them on their kids … A lot of parents are like, ‘Oh he’s only going to be 5 feet, 7 inches, that’s bad!’”
Dr. Eric Ascher, a family medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital on the Upper East Side, said there are myriad reasons why parents may opt to give their kids hormone shots, but “desire for looks is more often what we’re treating versus health.”
“It’s thought, ‘If I place my child on growth hormones, then they can be the star football player, or have more muscles to be more attractive.’”
Ascher noted that the practice has become increasingly common since 2003, when the Food and Drug Administration approved using human growth hormone to treat children with short stature of an unknown cause. It is also reportedly popular in China.
But, he cautions, there are drawbacks to this procedure.
“It’s giving the child a negative social message at a young age,” Ascher said, adding that side effects can include an increased risk of heart issue down the line.
But Robert has no regrets.
His son has sprouted up to 4 feet, 8 inches in 14 months and seems more confident.
“He’s grown at a very good rate and presumably from that medicine,” Robert said.
A stay-at-home mom in her mid-40s who lives in a tony suburb 30 minutes north of Manhattan is hoping for similar results for her son, age 10.
Kids at school tease him and call him “Tiny Tim,” so she recently started him on growth hormone, after X-rays of his hands and wrists signaled GH deficiency.
“He was like, ‘Mommy, it’s torture,’” she said. “I said to my son, ‘Feel lucky that mommy can give this to you. Daddy and I aren’t going to let you suffer.’”
She added, “Right now, it’s looking like he’ll be 5’4 when he’s done growing, but if I can help my child not be 5’4, I’m going to.”