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Long-acting painkillers dramatically lower testosterone levels

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Men are popping more painkillers than ever before for chronic pain, and most are taking long-acting medication because the doctor thought it was safer. But researchers have discovered this week that the ‘safer’ option comes with an alarming side effect-it dramatically reduces testosterone levels.
Long-acting painkillers, which are taken every eight to 12 hours, can lower testosterone levels by as much as five times, which can cause a reduction in muscle mass, affect brain functioning, reduce sex drive, lower mood and cause osteoporosis.
This family of painkillers-which includes Oxycontin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone)-was developed for cancer patients, but has been increasingly used for general pain as doctors saw them as a safer alternative to the short-acting, immediate-release, painkillers. Around 4.3 million American males take a long-acting painkiller every day for general pain.
Men taking the drugs are 4.8 times more likely to have low testosterone levels. A healthy man can have a testosterone level as high as 800 nanograms per decilitre of blood (ng/dL), but those taking one of the painkillers were regularly recording a testosterone level of below 250 ng/dL, according to a study of 81 men attending the chronic pain clinic at the Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Centre.
(Source: Clinical Journal of Pain, 2013; doi: 10.1097/ajp.0b013e31827c7b5d).

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