Opioids and Low Testosterone May Be Connected

Opioids and Low Testosterone May Be Connected

Men and women who use opioids are more likely to have low testosterone, especially if they are older and have certain medical problems, according to research published last year.

Opioids are pain medications, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and codeine. They work by decreasing a patient’s perception of pain.

Testosterone is a hormone that is usually associated with men because it gives them their male characteristics. Women’s bodies produce much smaller amounts.

Scientists analyzed data from the US-based 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They identified 320 men and women who had used prescription opioids in the past 30 days and compared them to 4,909 people who were did not use opioids.

They found that those who used opioids tended to have lower testosterone levels compared to those who didn’t. They also discovered that the odds of having low testosterone were higher for opioid users over 70 and those who had other medical conditions, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis.

It was unclear how these findings would affect women, as their testosterone levels are typically lower and can be affected by hormones and the menstrual cycle.

For men, it appeared that the testes produced less testosterone. However other factors, including diabetes and high blood pressure, are linked to low testosterone as well, so future research is needed to determine just how strong the association with opioid use is.

The study was published last summer in the journal Pain Medicine.  


HealthDay via Renal & Urology News

“Opioid Use Linked to Low Testosterone”

(January 5, 2016)


National Institute on Drug Abuse

“What are opioids?”

(Last updated: November 2014)


Pain Medicine

Cepeda, Maria Soledad MD, PhD, et al.

“Effect of Opioids on Testosterone Levels: Cross-Sectional Study using NHANES”

(Full-text. First published online: July 14, 2015)


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