This opioid pain killers and erectile dysfunction article was
written by guest author, Jason Brick.
Inside he discusses how opiates….
Read on for all the details….
The good news about opioid pain killers is they kill pain really well.
They’ve enabled some people with serious diseases or lasting injuries to live a normal life, and they’ve made it possible to perform some surgeries with lower risk of death.
The bad news about opioid pain killers is they’re really, really bad for you.
These drugs — synthetic creations meant to mimic the chemistry of opium and opiate drugs, stuff like Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin, Demerol and Hydrocodone — are extremely addictive.
Even without addiction, they can have a long-term impact on your sexual health.
Although the fact of chronic or severe pain leaves many people to believe opioid use is unavoidable under some circumstances, the truth is opioid prescriptions have risen significantly since the early 1990s.
Previously, doctors were unlikely to give these prescriptions because of the risk of addiction and their impact on health. If your doctor offers opioids to deal with your pain, here are some reasons to ask him what other options exist.
This one seems like a no-brainer. Opioid pain killers tend to make people sleepy, lethargic, and disinterested in activity at all. Since sex is an activity, it follows that being on opioids would make you less interested in sex.
Although many “no-brainers” have later been disproven via research, this one checks out.
In 2009, Katz and Mazer of Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston published a review article in which they analyzed reports in dozens of clinical and preclinical studies and trials regarding how opioids affected the endocrine system (source).
They determined that the overwhelming majority of the evidence pointed to reduced libido as just one of several long-term problems caused in the endocrine system by opioid usage.
Another study by Dr. Sitzman, formerly president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, found that opioids have a direct impact on testosterone production.
Lower testosterone (as I don’t have to tell anybody who’s been reading this blog for long) reduces libido and increases erectile dysfunction. Bottom line: opioids mess with your body’s ability to produce the hormones that make you want to have sex.
As you know, sexual health in men relies on the regular and balanced production of hormones.
As it turns out, gonadal hormones are also related to experiencing and treating pain. Estrogen, for example, has been linked with how much pain women experience with or without medication.
Less research has looked at the role of testosterone in pain, but what’s there suggests a similar connection. It’s no surprise, then, that drugs which impact or mask the experience of pain will also impact pain-related hormones.
For example, a substantial number of studies have found that using opioids for as little as one month cause androgen deficiencies in men and menstrual cycle abnormalities in women.
The androgen deficiencies result directly from a reduction in the production of sex hormones, which thus causes sexual dysfunction along with a host of other health problems.
Specifically what happens is that the opioids interfere with your body’s signal to the endocrine system when the levels of sex hormones are sufficient.
The body mistakes the opioid chemical signature for the signal to stop producing testosterone, estrogens and progesterone. Such a false signal means all three sex hormones are produced without balance.
You body might produce less testosterone, or it might produce the same amount of testosterone while producing more (or less) estrogen. Either way, the result is less of the sex hormones your body needs for strong sexual health.
Given the information above, it should come as no surprise to you that several studies have directly linked blatant erectile dysfunction with opioid pain killer use.
One particularly telling piece of research, published in Spine in 2013, involved over 11,000 men diagnosed with back pain and given opioid pain killers to help them cope.
Of these subjects, 900 (just under 90%) of them had also been prescribed medication for sexual dysfunction (source).
At first glance it could seem that opioid use was potentially a confounding variable — for example, the age group most strongly associated with back pain is also the age group during which men frequently get prescribed erectile assistance.
Further, the study also found links between opioid use and smoking, depression and abuse of other drugs. All of those factors also decrease sexual health.
However, further research found that nearly 20 percent of patients who used opioids long term experienced sexual dysfunction, even in the absence of those other factors. Another study linked opioid use with female sexual dysfunction.
The bottom line is that opioid pain killers are directly linked with frequent erectile dysfunction, and also cause other disorders which themselves are linked with erectile dysfunction. They’re bad news for sexual health, and best avoided as much as possible.
In some situations, you might legitimately need a short course of opioid pain killers after an injury or while recovering from surgery, but this should be a short, temporary situation.
The more opioids that go through the system, the higher your risk for the reduced libido, lowered sex hormones, and erectile dysfunction caused by being on these drugs…and that doesn’t even touch on the increased likelihood of a life- and relationship- destroying addiction.
If your doctor prescribes opioids, ask about alternative doses like ibuprofen, or even mental and behavioral pain control techniques. These have been shown to work nearly as well, without all the terrifying side effects.
The pain control methods are especially helpful, since they can help you avoid needing any opioid (or other) pain killers in the future. Remember: doctors shunned opioid pain killers until the 1990s, but patients managed their pain successfully.
If your grandfather handled knee surgery just fine in 1985 with only a minimal dose, you can do the same now.