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Painkillers Kill Sex

Tim Boyer's picture

Researcher from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research reports that taking painkillers to treat a bad back can do more than kill your back pain—it can kill your sex life as well.

According to a press release issued by Kaiser Permanente, the use of painkilling prescription opioids such as hydrocone, oxycodone and morphine has increased 4–fold between 1999 and 2010 affecting approximately 4.3 million adults in the U.S.

This significant rise in prescription medicine use―and in many cases, abuse―has health authorities concerned prompting new formulations of less strong pain and sleep-inducing medications to stem accidental overdose and other medication-related injuries. However, as reported by the Kaiser Permanente institute, it turns out that taking painkillers by men with back pain can lead to erectile dysfunction (ED).

“There is no question that for some patients opioid use is appropriate, but there is also increasing evidence that long-term use can lead to addiction, fatal overdoses, sleep apnea, falls in the elderly, reduced hormone production, and now erectile dysfunction,” says Dr. Richard A. Deyo, MD, MPH, the lead author of the study published in the current issue of the medical journal Spine, and investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research and professor of Evidence-based Family Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.

In the study, the pharmacy records of 11,327 men suffering from back pain were examined six months prior to and six months following a visit to their physician for back pain treatment. The investigators analyzed the records to determine whether there was a correlation between receiving prescription painkillers and requiring testosterone replacement therapy and/or a subsequent prescription for treating erectile dysfunction.

The studied patients’ opioid usage was categorized as follows:

• “None” for men who did not receive a prescription for opioids for their back pain.

• “Acute” for men who took opioids for three months or less for their pain.

• “Episodic” for men who took opioids for more than three months, but less than four months and with fewer than 10 refills.

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• “Long-term” for men who took opioids (a) for at least four months or (b) for more than three months with 10 or more refills. Anything more than 120 mg of morphine equivalent was categorized as high-dose use.

What the researchers found was that age is still the most significant factor associated with erectile dysfunction with men ages 60 to 69 being 14 times more likely to be treated for ED than men ages 18 to 29.

However, when factoring in age, health condition and other factors, the researchers’ data shows that long-term opioid use increases the likelihood of being treated for erectile dysfunction by 50 percent.

Their data revealed that:

1. Less than 7 percent of men who didn’t take opioids received ED medications or testosterone replacement.

2. Over 12 percent of men who took low-dose opioids (under 120 mg) for at least four months also received ED medications or testosterone replacement.

3. More than 19 percent of the men who took high-dose opioids for at least four months also received ED medications or testosterone replacement.

While the association of painkillers as a potential sex killer for men appears strong, Dr. Deyo points out that:

“This doesn’t mean that these medications cause ED, but the association is something patients and clinicians should be aware of when deciding if opioids should be used to treat back pain,” says Dr. Deyo.

Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket

Reference: “Prescription Opioids for Back Pain and Use of Medications for Erectile Dysfunction” Spine 15 May 2013 - Volume 38 - Issue 11 - p 909–915; Richard A. Deyo, MD, MPH et al.