We’ve often discussed the various negative side effects of opiate use and dependency; however one that is rarely discussed is the link between opiate dependency and libido. Many patients who are dependent on opiates and prescription painkillers, including those with chronic pain can experience a lack of sexual drive as well as sexual dysfunction. This loss of desire and inability to perform is often caused by hormonal imbalances in the body or underlying emotional conditions.
Decreased libido and sexual dysfunction are very common amongst chronic pain patients, many of whom are often prescribed opiate painkillers, like Vicodin, Oxycontin, or methadone to ease their discomfort. According to a 2011 report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), nearly 116 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. The American Pain Foundation also reports that approximately 80 percent of chronic pain suffers report a significant reduction or loss of their libido. Although all the effects of opiates on libido are not completely understood, researchers have been able to identify specific chemistry changes opiates cause in the body that could be responsible for this effect.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, impaired sexual performance and diminished libido in opiate users can be caused by an interference of the drugs with sex hormone secretion. The study found that decreased libido in male heroin users was due to a suppression of the luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland, which was then followed by a drop in plasma testosterone levels. LH affects the function of sex organs, and in females helps determine the sequence and length of menstrual cycles. Testosterone is also a major sex hormone and is responsible for helping to determine the body’s sex drive. In the study, once opiate use was discontinued researchers found that sexual drive returned to normal levels.
Another explanation for the loss of libido in opiate users stems from emotional conditions. Many times, individuals may start taking opiates to cope with emotional issues like depression, anxiety, stress, or fatigue. According to researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, patients suffering from psychiatric illnesses are also more likely to experience sexual dysfunction than those who are not. If people suffering from these conditions, whether they are aware of it or not, seek solace from their conditions by using prescription painkillers, their lack of libido may be exacerbated.
If you or a loved one is struggling with depression or dependency to prescription painkillers, we urge you to contact your medical physicians. For more information on choosing an opiate detox program for yourself or a loved one, please feel free to contact our office directly. The Waismann Method is a safe and proven treatment for opiate dependency that utilizes the most advanced medical techniques available. The rapid opiate detoxification procedure is carried out in a full-service hospital in Southern California by board-certified anesthesiologists while patients remain under deep sedation, so they experience minimal conscious withdrawal or suffering.