The scary update on Sex, Opioids and Pain

It is scary to hear news on how opioid drugs are affecting people here at home and around the world. New data from the US shows that men and women can have different experiences with prescription opioids.

A recent article published in the medical journal The Lancet(2018;392[10141]:9-11) confirms that men and women have different experiences with opioids and also have different pathways that lead to opioid dependence and addiction.

We know that males and females experience pain differently. This is especially true for neuropathic pain from diabetes, as women are more likely to report pain even if they do not yet have diagnosed neuropathy. 

Given this gender difference in pain, females are more likely to be prescribed opioids compared to males. Females are also more likely to be put on combination therapy, which are opioids prescribed alongside other pain management drugs. This strategy can be especially dangerous because opioids are known to interact with other pain drugs leading to deadly outcomes.

As a researcher, it is important to study how males and females react to different pain management strategies. This information is critical for physicians who are prescribing these drugs.

On a practical note, if you know anyone who is using opioids for pain management, talk to them about the risk of dependence and addiction if it is appropriate. Chronic pain is a challenging condition to live with and a strong social support network is very important for physical and mental health.

Stay Healthy, 

Dr. Evan

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