Long-Term Opioid Use is Linked to Low Testosterone
Posted: February 9, 2022
Low testosterone is a common health condition that can cause many difficult symptoms and can also seriously impact your health and quality of life. There are many reasons you may experience testosterone deficiency, also known as hypogonadism. One lesser-known cause of hypogonadism is opioid use.
Long-term opioid use is on the rise. Millions of people today use opioids for long-term pain management, yet many don’t realize that this can lead to low testosterone levels and symptoms of hypogonadism. In this article, we’ll discuss the connection and how testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) may help with opioid-induced hypogonadism.
Symptoms and Dangers of Low Testosterone
It’s important to understand the many effects of low testosterone. This hormone deficiency can cause many symptoms and other health concerns. For instance, some of the symptoms you may experience with hypogonadism include:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Weight gain
- Low muscle mass
- Difficulty concentrating
In addition, testosterone deficiency can increase your risk for many serious health conditions. Many of us know testosterone as the sex hormone responsible for puberty. However, it also plays other important roles in your body. It helps with red blood cell production, muscle mass, fat distribution, and bone density. When testosterone levels are too low, you may experience many complications.
Low testosterone is associated with many serious health conditions, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis. Hypogonadism may also increase your risk for cardiovascular issues. Therefore, it’s essential to talk to our providers about your testosterone levels and if you could benefit from testosterone replacement therapy.
Long-Term Opioid Use May Cause Low Testosterone
What many people don’t realize is that opioid use can cause low testosterone levels. There have been many studies associating hypogonadism with opioid use. While research is still ongoing, there is evidence that many people taking long-term opioids suffer from opioid-induced hypogonadism. One 2015 study published in Drug & Alcohol Dependence journal found a significant difference in testosterone levels for opioid users. Compared to control groups, the men in the opioid group had, on average, 165 ng/dL less testosterone. For reference, average testosterone levels for healthy men are typically between 300 and 1,000 ng/dL.
One 2020 study found that the risk for hypogonadism increases based on opioid doses. The researchers found that opioids may have a dose-dependent relationship with testosterone levels. In the study, they found that the risk for low testosterone levels increased by 44% for every 100 units of opioid dosage. Nevertheless, the researchers mentioned that screening for low T among opioid users is quite low, despite these connections. They also found that while all opioids can increase the risk for testosterone deficiency, the study found that patients taking long-acting opioids, such as oxycodone, were more likely to suffer from low testosterone compared to people taking short-acting opioids like hydrocodone.
Experts are still studying the reason why opioids may increase the risk for testosterone deficiency. However, many believe it is because it disrupts the endocrine system through the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls hormones. Opioids may bind to receptors in the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and even the testes to suppress testosterone levels, which may be the reason long-term opioid use can lead to low testosterone. In any case, many people taking opioids long-term may suffer from low T, its symptoms, and its complications.
Who Should Get Tested for Low Testosterone?
Even though opioids can lead to testosterone deficiency, many physicians who prescribe opioids for chronic pain do not regularly screen for low testosterone. Both doctors and patients often chalk testosterone deficiency symptoms to other issues, such as normal aging. However, if you’re experiencing symptoms of testosterone deficiency or think you might be suffering from opioid-induced hypogonadism, it’s important to get your testosterone levels tested. A testosterone test is a simple blood test that our providers can use to assess your hormone levels. If your testosterone levels are low, we confirm them with a second blood test. If your testosterone levels are low, our team looks for underlying causes and offers customized treatment plans to help you feel your best and address your health.
How TRT Can Help Opioid-Induced Hypogonadism
One common treatment for low testosterone is testosterone replacement therapy. In many cases, you can take both opioids and TRT as part of your treatment regimen. TRT can help restore testosterone levels depleted by long-term opioid use. This can improve your symptoms and may help with your overall health.
TRT Can Alleviate Your Symptoms
Many men with low testosterone suffer from serious and often life-altering symptoms. For instance, low sex drive can affect your sex life and relationships. Weight gain can lead to other serious health conditions. Low energy levels can make it hard to take part in the things you love. These are just some examples of how debilitating testosterone deficiency can be.
TRT helps increase testosterone levels in your body to healthy ranges, which may relieve your symptoms. Many men who begin a testosterone replacement program notice they feel more energized, have a higher sex drive, and experience a boost in mood. In many cases, they also notice increased muscle mass and decreased body fat. Many studies have found treating hypogonadism with TRT can improve overall quality of life, and the same is true for long-term opioid users. Therefore, if you believe you may have hypogonadism, talk to our providers about your symptoms and treatment options that may help.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy May Improve Your Health
As we mentioned, there may be many health complications you can experience due to low testosterone levels. TRT may help reduce some of these symptoms and help you improve your overall health. You should talk to our providers about how testosterone injections may help you overall health management. However, one study suggests that testosterone replacement therapy may reduce the risk for many health issues for long-term opioid users.
The 2019 study offered a long-time follow up on health outcomes for people taking opioids and testosterone. The study included long-term opioid users who had low testosterone levels. One group received testosterone replacement therapy and the other did not. Researchers followed the participants for up to six years to assess their health outcomes. The study found that the men who received TRT in the study had lower mortality rates from all causes compared to those who didn’t use testosterone. In addition, the study found that the testosterone replacement group also had lower cases of anemia, hip fractures, and major cardiovascular events. This evidence suggests that TRT for opioid-induced hypogonadism may help reduce some health risks.
Take Control of Your Health with Low T Center
Our team at the Low T Center is here to help you with complete health management. We believe in helping you take control of your health to help you feel like the best version of yourself. Our goal is to make healthcare for men simple, convenient, and affordable to suit your busy lifestyle. We offer quality healthcare for a wide range of conditions so you can address your overall health at our conveniently located clinics. Our providers customize treatments to you and offer ongoing monitoring to help optimize results. Make an appointment today to take the first step toward feeling better.
Disclaimer: This article is made available for general, entertainment and educational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of Low T Center. You should always seek the advice of a licensed healthcare professional.