The opioid crisis continues to be a hot button issue in the news, as the United States and other countries grapple with how to make this pain killer available for responsible medical use while at the same time limiting its availability for misuse and abuse. There have been numerous articles about the problem of abusing opioids in general - but too few men may be aware of the fact that opioid misuse could potentially lead to erection problems. While the opioids issue is bigger than this one concern, it’s worthwhile for men to know more about this potential impact on their sex lives.

What are opioids?

People are talking about opioids and the opioid crisis, but what exactly are opioids? Basically, opioids are a kind of narcotic pain reliever that are intended to be used when mild pain relievers don’t get the job done. They work by reducing the transmission of pain signals to the brain. Opioids are not available over the counter and require a prescription.

Some of the more commonly-known opioids are codeine (often found in prescription cough medicines), morphine, fentanyl, oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Further, opioids are often classified in two categories - short-acting and long-acting. Short-acting opioids are intended to provide relief for six hour or less; they release their medication more quickly. Long-acting is intended to last at least hours, and the medication is released more quickly.

Erection effects

Many animal studies have noted that opioid use has the potential to create sexual problems in both male and female test animals. Some studies in humans have also noted this problem.

One 2017 study looked at other studies which had focused on men who had undergone opioid therapy and men who had not. By combining the data from these studies, the authors found that men who had used opioids were about twice as likely to have erect penis dysfunction as those who had not used opioids.

Why should this be? Well, another study - this one from 2013 -sheds some light on that question. This study looked at 81 men who had all been on opioid therapy for at least three months. None of the men had tested for low testosterone levels before undergoing therapy; however, more than half (57%) developed low testosterone from the opioid treatment. (The rate varied depending on which kind of opioid was used. Of men taking short acting opioids, the rate of low testosterone development was 34%, compared to 74% of those on long-acting testosterone.

In men, testosterone is an important component of sexual health. Higher levels of testosterone are associated with an increased sex drive, as well as with greater erectile function. So by suppressing testosterone production, opioids can make it more difficult for a man to achieve an erect penis. (And, with his sex drive also impacted, it may make a man less interested in sex as well.)

Check with doctor

If a man is using opioids and feels that they may be having an effect on his erect penis, he should consult with his doctor about an appropriate course of action to take. And if he feels that using opioids is having other negative effects, such as creating a potential dependency, he needs to bring this to the attention of his doctor right away.

Opioids are not the only factor impacting an erect penis, and having a healthy member overall increases the odds of having healthy erections. Men should regularly apply a first class penis health creme (health professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil, which is clinically proven mild and safe for skin). The ideal crème will contain a wide range of vitamins, including A, B5, C, D and E. In addition, the crème should contain the amino acid L-arginine, which helps boost nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps keep penile blood vessels capable of receiving greater blood flow.