Opioid therapy is one of the most effective forms of analgesia currently in use.
In the past few decades, the use of opioids as a long-term treatment for chronic pain has increased dramatically. Accompanying this upsurge in the use of long-term opioid therapy has been an increase in the occurrence of opioid associated endocrinopathy, most commonly manifested as an androgen deficiency and therefore referred to as opioid associated androgen deficiency (OPIAD). This syndrome is characterized by the presence of inappropriately low levels of gonadotropins (follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone) leading to inadequate production of sex hormones, particularly testosterone. Symptoms that may manifest in patients with OPIAD include reduced libido, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, hot flashes, and depression. Physical findings may include reduced facial and body hair, anemia, decreased muscle mass, weight gain, and osteopenia or osteoporosis. Additionally, both men and women with OPIAD may suffer from infertility. While the literature regarding OPIAD remains limited, it is apparent that OPIAD is becoming increasingly prevalent among chronic opioid consumers but often goes unrecognized. OPIAD can have a significant negative impact on the the quality of life of opioid users, and clinicians should anticipate the potential for its occurrence whenever long-term opioid prescribing is undertaken. Once diagnosed, treatment for OPIAD may be offered utilizing a number of androgen replacement therapy options including a variety of testosterone preparations and, for female patients with OPIAD, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplementation. Follow-up evaluation of patients receiving androgen replacement therapy should include a review of any unresolved symptoms of hypogonadism, laboratory evaluation, and surveillance for potential adverse effects of androgen replacement therapy including prostate disease in males.
Smith HS, Elliott JA. Are you the author?
Albany Medical College, Albany, NY, USA.
Reference: Pain Physician. 2012 Jul;15(3 Suppl):ES145-56.