Erectile Dysfunction Linked To Painkillers
May 15, 2013

Are Your Painkillers Causing Erectile Dysfunction?

Feeling a little droopy lately? A new study suggests that it may be due to the prescription painkillers you've been taking.

According to a new study published in the journal Spine, regularly taking prescription painkillers is associated with a higher risk of erectile dysfunction (ED). The team looked at 11,000 men with back pain, examining their health records to find out if taking prescription painkillers was linked to testosterone replacement or ED medications.

The researchers found that over 19 percent of men who took high-dose opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone for at least four months also received a prescription for ED compared to less than seven percent for men who were not taking painkillers.

"Men who take opioid pain medications for an extended period of time have the highest risk of ED," said lead author Richard A. Deyo, MD, MPH, investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research and Professor of Evidence-based Family Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University.

"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."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Mortality and Morbidity Report, prescription painkiller sales quadrupled between 1999 and 2010. Another study estimates that 4.3 million adults in the US use painkiller medications on a regular basis.

"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 Deyo, who has spent more than 30 years studying treatments for back pain.

The researchers said that 19 percent of men who took a high-dose of painkillers for at least four months also received ED medications or testosterone replacement. Over 12 percent of men who took low-dose painkillers for at least four months received the same ED and testosterone medications.

A study released last week at a press conference at the San Diego Convention Center found that nearly 75 percent of American men living with erectile dysfunction have not sought treatment out for the condition.

“Despite ED treatments being available to men for nearly 15 years as well as heavily promoted in mainstream media, one wonders why they are not seeking care known to improve their quality of life,” said Ajay Nangia, MD, Associate Professor of Urology, University of Kansas Medical Center. “We need to have a better understanding of where the disconnect between diagnosis and treatment occurs.”