Opioids can suppress testosterone production, according to a study published in Pain Medicine.
Study participants included 5,229 people 17 years and older who had data on prescription medication usage and serum testosterone levels available.
“Participants who made up the opioid-exposed group were older, more likely to be women, and had more comorbidities compared with those in the unexposed group,” wrote Maria Soledad Cepeda MD, PhD, lead author of the study, “Effect of Opioids on Testosterone Levels: Cross-Sectional Study using NHANES.”
Participants were divided into two groups, opioid exposed and unexposed. Those who responded that they were taking opioid analgesics when asked: “In the past 30 days, have you used or taken medication for which a prescription is needed?” were included in the exposed group. Those who did not report taking opioid analgesics were included in the unexposed group.
Those in the exposed group were categorized by the duration of opioid exposure: no exposure, up to 1 month, or >1 month of exposure. All participants were further categorized into four different groups: 17–45, 46–60, 61–70, and >70 years of age.
“We found that testosterone levels in men exposed to opioids were on average, 20.02 ng/dL lower than in unexposed men after controlling for the effects of comorbidities and age (although this difference was not statistically significant),” the authors noted.
Results reported in the study include:
- Participants on opioids had higher odds of having low testosterone levels than those unexposed, odd ratio (OR) = 1.40, 95% confidence interval (CI) (1.07–1.84).
- After controlling for opioid exposure, as the age and the number of comorbidities increased, the odds of having low testosterone levels significantly increased in all categories.
- Compared with participants between 17 and 45 years of age, participants >70 years had OR = 1.70, 95% CI (1.16–2.50).
- Compared with participants with no comorbidities, participants with >2 comorbidities had OR = 1.69 95% CI (1.24–2.30).
The authors concluded, “When assessing the impact of opioids on testosterone, the effects of age and medical conditions should be considered.”