Long-term opioid use can cause sexual side effects such as erectile dysfunction, loss of interest in sex, and changes in hormone levels. These side effects can start after taking opioids for anywhere between 1 month to 1 year.
Studies show that anywhere between 30 to 90 percent of people going through long-term opioid therapy may experience a form of sexual dysfunction while taking opioids.
Long-term opioid use is linked to low blood pressure, constipation, worsening mental health, and opiate withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit. These side effects can indirectly affect your sexual and overall health.
How Opioid Use Affects Sexual Function
Opioid analgesics affect the secretion of hormones related to sexual function by binding to opioid receptors in your endocrine system and hypothalamus.
Risk factors for opioid-induced sexual side effects may include a history of sexual problems and co-occurring substance abuse problems.
Studies show that morphine use can lead to low testosterone levels, which can affect your sexual health. Other hormones affected by opioid use can include the gonadotropin-releasing hormone and the luteinizing hormone.
Changing these hormone levels in your body can be linked to sexual problems. These side effects can worsen if you abuse opioids.
Medication-Assisted Treatment & Sexual Side Effects
Sexual side effects can also happen if you are on a buprenorphine, naltrexone, or methadone maintenance treatment program. However, the benefits of opioids used for maintenance therapy may outweigh the sexual side effects.
Sexual Side Effects Of Opioid Use
Opioid-induced sexual side effects may include:
- erectile dysfunction
- premature ejaculation
- hypogonadism (reduced testicular function)
- loss of interest in sex
- decreased sexual desire
- pain before, during, or after sexual activity
These side effects can be more severe in higher doses, or if you have been undergoing opioid therapy for a long time.
Indirect Sexual Risks Of Long-Term Opioid Use
Long-term opioid use can also cause constipation, headaches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and dizziness. These general side effects can worsen your quality of life and reduce interest in sex, without affecting your hormone levels directly.
If you take opioids for chronic pain management, the negative side effects of opioids can outweigh the positive effects over time. Abusing opioids can also increase your risk of negative side effects in the long term.
Serious health problems can have a high comorbidity with opioid-induced sexual dysfunction. These problems can be a sign that you are struggling with substance abuse and need professional help.
An opioid overdose can occur after you take high doses of opioids at once. High doses of opioids can overwhelm your brain and cause vital functions to shut down.
Signs of an opioid overdose may include:
- breathing problems
- weak pulse
- clammy skin
- loss of consciousness
- gurgling sounds while asleep or unconscious
Opioid overdoses can be life-threatening, and can hurt your overall health in the long term.
Opioid Use Disorder
Opioid addiction, also known as opioid use disorder, is a mental health condition where you cannot stop taking opioids. Your risk of opioid use disorder may be high if you take opioids for a long time.
Opioid addiction can be linked to health problems such as opioid dependence, worsening mental health, and withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit.
Opioid use disorders and other mental health problems, such as alcohol addiction, depression, and bipolar disorder, can often co-occur together.
Co-occurring mental health problems can worsen your sexual health even further.
If you have serious health problems due to long-term opioid use, opioid treatment options such as detox programs, medication-assisted treatment, and behavioral therapy can help.
Contact Bedrock Recovery Center to find out if our evidence-based opioid treatment programs will work for you or your loved one.
- Dovepress - Sexual Adverse Effects and Erectile Dysfunction During Buprenorphine/N https://www.dovepress.com/sexual-adverse-effects-and-erectile-dysfunction-during-buprenorphinena-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-NDT
- Food and Drug Administration - Oxycontin HCl Label https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2008/020553s059lbl.pdf
- Frontiers - Sexual Functioning and Opioid Maintenance Treatment in Women. Results From a Large Multicentre Study https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00097/full
- Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine - Sexual Dysfunction in Patients with Alcohol and Opioid Dependence https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4201785/