When we think of low testosterone, we generally think of the aging male. As we grow older, testosterone levels naturally decline, and in many cases, testosterone therapy is needed. Without question, age is the leading cause of low levels, but drug abuse and low testosterone also go hand in hand. When it comes to drug abuse and low testosterone, we’re not merely talking about recreational drug use or the junkie on the corner. This type of drug use definitely has an affect, but the problem often goes much deeper than that. Even the use of legitimate prescription drugs as directed by your doctor can dramatically damage and even destroy your testosterone levels, and that is a problem. From the use of anabolic steroids, opiate painkillers and everything in-between, drug abuse induced low testosterone are far more common than you might think; in fact, it’s one of the leading causes of the condition and one of the reasons so many men suffer.
Drug Abuse and Low Testosterone – Opioids:
Opioids like Oxytocin, Percocet and Vicodin are used by millions upon millions of people every day, and in many cases, in an abusive fashion. These types of medications are one of the leading causes. In fact, even long term prescription use, legal use as prescribed by your doctor could be labeled abuse when we consider what it does to our hormone production.
The most obvious question at hand is how badly can opioids affect our testosterone levels. In January of 2013 Kaiser Permanente’s Santa Rosa Medical Center released a study on these findings, and the results show opioid drug abuse and low testosterone are no joking matter:
- 81 Men were tested between the ages 26 & 79
- None of the men were diagnosed with low testosterone
- 3 Months into the study testosterone levels were checked
- 74% of men using long-acting opioids had low testosterone
- 34% of men using short-acting opioids had low testosterone
It is estimated that approximately five million people in the U.S. alone use opioids on a regular basis. Many experts say this number is far too conservative when we consider non-prescription use. Many people start with a prescription, but the painkillers are so addicting that they inevitably become slaves to the drugs. Often the individual lives for nothing but the medication, and while opioid drug abuse and low testosterone are a problem, it’s just one of many that occur due to the use of these medications.
Drug Abuse and Low Testosterone – Anabolic Steroids:
Anabolic steroid drug abuse and low testosterone can go hand in hand; in fact, it’s perhaps the number one risk of anabolic steroid use. The use of anabolic steroids will suppress natural testosterone production. The rate of suppression is dependent on the steroid in question and to a degree the dose, but suppression will occur nonetheless. Most anabolic steroids, especially at performance level doses, will suppress natural testosterone production greatly and cause a low level state. For this reason, most all anabolic steroid users include some type of exogenous testosterone in their cycle. However, even the use of testosterone, the primary anabolic steroid, will suppress natural testosterone production. During the use of anabolic steroids, if the individual is using testosterone this is of very little concern as he’s giving himself all the testosterone he needs. Then we’re at the post cycle stage and that’s where problems can begin.
Once the use of anabolic steroids comes to an end, natural testosterone production will begin again. However, it will take quite a bit of time for you to recover your levels to where they were prior to your steroid use, and in some cases, a full recovery won’t happen at all. In order to promote recovery, many steroid users will implement a Post Cycle Therapy (PCT) plan. This will aid in recovery, but even the best PCT in the world is no guarantee. It is possible to severally damage your Hypothalamic Pituitary Testicular Axis (HPTA) to where you can no longer adequately produce optimal testosterone. This damage is most commonly found in long term steroid users, those who have used anabolic steroids regularly for years. There are things that can be done that offer a great deal of protection, but again, there are no guarantees. Where steroid abuse and low testosterone can really be a concern is with young men. When your endocrine system is not yet fully developed, the damage that can be done to the HPTA is tremendous; in fact, we can call any adolescent steroid use abuse.
The important question at hand is should the low testosterone patient be concerned with testosterone suppression? Fortunately, sound therapy that includes Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) can keep natural production going in men who suffer from secondary hypogonadism, but this won’t work for those that suffer from primary hypogonadism. However, if you suffer from low testosterone the issue of natural suppression shouldn’t be a concern; after all, you’re not producing enough to begin with and low levels are extremely damaging to our health and overall wellbeing. When it comes to steroid abuse and low testosterone, abuse does not apply to the low testosterone patient.
Drug abuse and Low Testosterone – Prescription Drugs (Other):
There are many prescription drugs that can and often do promote low testosterone. Such medications are generally prescribed with the patient’s best interest in mind, but the low testosterone consequence is rarely taken into account. When such medications are prescribed we can’t necessarily always call this drug abuse, but in some cases, it’s not far from it. Prescribed medications that can and often do lower testosterone levels most commonly include statins (cholesterol medications) and antidepressants most commonly and sleeping pills.
When it comes to low testosterone, two of the most common symptoms include insomnia and depression. Many men find they no longer need antidepressants or sleeping pills once they optimize their testosterone levels. If we ignore the issue of low testosterone and go straight for prescription medications such as these, in some ways we could label this as drug abuse, or perhaps irresponsible use dictated by the physician. Then there’s cholesterol, and once again many men find their cholesterol levels improve when testosterone therapy is implemented. Drug abuse and low testosterone, without a doubt even commonly prescribed medications can fit this bill.