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Q: Are my legal risks for growth hormone the same as for steroids?
A: Human growth hormone (hGH) is a natural hormone produced in the human body by the pituitary gland. It's available as a synthetically produced injectable drug, and has become a popular but expensive medication prescribed in anti-aging therapies and in the treatment of AIDS-related wasting. Bodybuilders may illicitly self-administer hGH to improve size and strength, usually by subcutaneous injection into the lower abdomen. Excessive or high-dose use can lead to significant or even dangerous side effects, like acromegaly (bone growth of the feet, jaw, forehead, etc.) and enlargement of the internal organs. Some of the brand names currently available are Genotropin®, Humatrope®, Nutropin®, Protropin®, Saizen®, Serostim® and Somatotropin®. Counterfeit products containing no real hGH have been identified on the black market, and have even shown up on pharmacy shelves - potentially jeopardizing those who need it medically.
So far, I've heard of only a handful of investigations involving hGH. In one case, about three months ago, two FDA enforcement agents showed up banging on the door of a local client of mine at about seven o'clock one morning. They were following up on a California investigation into counterfeit hGH distribution by mail, and had information that one package had been previously sent to him. They peppered him with questions about it, but even at that early hour he somehow mustered the sleepy smarts to decline giving any answers, to refuse their demands to enter his house, and to instead hand them my business card. Undoubtedly disappointed, they left. Shortly thereafter, when I arrived at work, they were waiting at my law office. They were extremely polite, and claimed that they had no interest in arresting anybody, but rather were merely concerned about the possibility that my client might have endangered himself or another by consumption of this counterfeit product. I thanked them for their concerns, promising to generally advise the muscle community of their concerns. While their true intentions are open to speculation, that was the last we saw of them.
Okay, here's the law: hGH is a prescription drug but is not on the federal list of controlled substances (found in 21 USC § 812(c)). Congress considered scheduling it along with steroids, but chose not to do so. However …
When Congress bootstrapped anabolic steroids into the Controlled Substances Act by passing the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990, steroids were already covered under 21 USC § 333(e), a part of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. That law, passed in 1988, made it a felony to distribute steroids (without criminalizing their personal use). When the Control Act effectively took steroids out of that section, Congress filled the void by sticking hGH in there. So, while hGH is not scheduled, 21 USC § 333(e) prohibits the distribution or possession with intent to distribute hGH for any use in humans other than for recognized medical reasons and pursuant to a valid prescription. Violations may be punishable by imprisonment of up to 5 years (10 years if to a person under 18 years).
Of course, all this pertains only to federal law. The individual states are free to pass their own laws about hGH, and many have. Idaho, Oregon, Rhode Island, and West Virginia have all scheduled hGH. Colorado makes hGH a schedule III controlled substance by including it in the definition of "anabolic steroid," and curiously making its use a misdemeanor but its possession a felony. Illinois doesn't schedule it, but makes its non-medical distribution a felony. Minnesota controls "anabolic substances" in its Schedule IV, and includes the vaguely described "growth hormones." In Maine and Massachusetts, all prescription drugs are controlled substances. [For the state-by-state penalties for steroid and hGH crimes, check out LEGAL MUSCLE: Anabolics In America.]
Congratulations, you're now an authority on hGH legalities. Use your knowledge wisely, and grow in peace.