Taking Opioids? You May Have Lower Testosterone

Taking Opioids? You May Have Lower Testosterone

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.”

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Authored by: Staff

There are 5 comments for this article
  1. Brad at 1:03 pm

    Thanks for posting this. The overall discussion surrounding testosterone levels and their impact on overall health are surging. I try to post relevant news and analysis on my own website http://www.bradpalubicki.com. In the coming week I am going to post a story about this article with a link back to your post.

  2. Zyp Czyk at 2:43 pm

    Well, of course!

    That’s like saying that people who take insulin have unstable blood sugar. Technically that’s true, but it doesn’t address the reason people are using insulin in the first place, which is that they have diabetes. This is the real source of their unstable blood sugar, not the medication they take to control it.

    People taking opioids are in pain, and that is what causes the low testosterone levels.

  3. Bill at 11:45 am

    I tried to gain muscle and get lean for years.. until I realised that I suffered from low testosterone.. I feel that this is one of the most under-addressed problems men face today..but you can do something about it. I managed to double my active testosterone naturally, gaining 15lbs of lean muscle by following The Man Diet.. I feel so much better day to day and I have even been able to get to 9 percent bodyfat.

  4. Chronic pain at 10:50 am

    First, what comorbities, pain?? Secondly, is it
    possible that someone in pain may suppress their testosterone because the body hurts? Doesn’t that make sense in a decreased sex drive? Finally, they themselves said that the results were statistically insignificant. Correlation does not mean causation. But the authors got their 15 minutes!! Congratulations again another study to “prove” opioids are bad.

  5. Jeremy Goodwin, MS, MD at 1:05 pm

    This is about 20 years too late. Based upon animal research and human clinical problems associated with opioids, pain ( treated or untreated) and extreme stress, I was monitoring and correcting hormonal levels, including testosterone, as far back as 1996.

    So why is this now ‘news’?