Narcotics Can Hamper Hormones

Published: October 13, 2012

Though opiates are sometimes needed for pain control, they can cause a myriad of problems, including hormonal dysfunction.

In addition to the commonly known side effects of narcotic medications, there are many lesser-recognized side effects. One is a deficiency of B-vitamins, which might show itself as "perleche" — inflammation at the corners of your mouth (the right and left ends of your lips). The problem (also called angular stomatitis, and sometimes caused by Candida) usually resolves with antifungals and a B complex supplement.

Another little-recognized side effect is that of hormonal problems. Natural opioids called endorphins help regulate hypothalamic/pituitary function, which controls the body's manufacture of hormones. Taking opioid medications (narcotics) can mess up that function. That's why chronic therapy with narcotics often causes testosterone deficiency — which may make it harder to control the pain!

A new case report links chronic narcotic use to elevated levels of prolactin and lower levels of adrenal hormones.

A small percentage of chronic pain patients may need chronic narcotics, but most cases of pain can be effectively addressed without narcotics, as I discuss in my book Pain Free 1-2-3. When chronic narcotic therapy is needed, the doctor may need to add hormonal support. Fortunately, opioid-caused hormonal problems often go away when you're gradually able to stop taking narcotics.

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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