Opioid-induced androgen deficiency has become one of the most common causes of testosterone deficiency among men in many communities. Its increase parallels the large increase in opioid use. This form of hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism is present in most men chronically consuming sustained-action opioids, including those receiving methadone for heroin addiction and those consuming opioids for control of either malignant or non-malignant chronic pain. A similar, but less well defined illness occurs in women. Opioid-induced androgen deficiency is not widely recognized. This review examines its pathophysiology, some of its signs and symptoms, and indicates some areas where current observations suggest additional investigations would be fruitful.
Recognition of opioid-induced androgen deficiency in men not receiving methadone for heroin addiction is a new observation, and in these men contributes to fatigue, depression, vasomotor phenomena, anemia, diminished libido, erectile dysfunction and osteoporosis. These signs and symptoms improved during testosterone replacement therapy in several small non-placebo-controlled trials.
A large majority of men consuming sustained-action opioids have symptomatic androgen deficiency which apparently responds to replacement therapy. Opioid-induced androgen deficiency is frequently overlooked, with its symptoms attributed to underlying disease states including malignant disease, chronic back disorders, HIV disease, and psychosocial illnesses contributing to opioid habituation.
Department of Family Practice, University of California Davis Medical School, Davis, California, USA
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