Addiction to illicit substances and prescription medications can have a severe impact on the fertility and reproductive functions of both men and women. In many cases negative effects can be reversed once the person is no longer abusing chemical substances, but in some cases reproductive damage is permanent. Additionally, addiction isn’t just a problem related to a person’s ability to conceive – it’s also a problem that could reduce the chances of being able to carry a healthy full-term pregnancy. Because family is the most important and vital social structure of modern society, understanding how addiction affects fertility could be a significant part of the process to help someone who is suffering from drug addiction or alcoholism.
How Drug Addiction Affects Women
Because an estimated 40-50%(1) of all fertility problems are related to a cause that solely lies with the woman and not the man, addiction and fertility should be a serious concern for all women. Use of drugs like marijuana, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy and methamphetamines can severely disrupt normal menstrual cycles. Some habitual female drug users have reported not having a period for months or even years at a time, while others report other ovulatory abnormalities such as increased pain with menstruation, menstrual periods lasting longer than 14 days, and other abnormal ovulatory behavior.
Drug use and drug addiction in women has been associated with an increased propensity to engage in high risk sexual behaviors and promiscuity. This can lead to damage to the reproductive system as a result of sexually transmitted diseases, sexual trauma, or both.
Some drugs like heroin and cocaine inflict direct physical damage on female reproductive organs – especially the fallopian tubes, which can become malformed and render a woman infertile.
How Drug Addiction Affects Men
Men who use drugs may experience significant reproductive abnormalities. Many street drugs as well as prescription drugs have been shown to lower both the sperm count and total seminal fluid in drug users, as well as lower levels of testosterone. Testosterone is a hormone that is critical to male reproductive health and also has an impact on energy levels and ability to cope with stress.
Drugs like crack, cocaine, marijuana and heroin have been shown to cause abnormal sperm behavior in men. The sperm of drug users may not swim properly or in the right direction, or they may be too lethargic to swim at all.
Because a male’s erection is dependent upon a strong and consistent supply of blood to the penis, drugs that cause circulatory and pulmonary problems such as opiates are a major contributor to erectile dysfunction. This coupled with the stressful lifestyle of most drug addicts can lead to significant problems becoming aroused or maintaining an erection.
Some of the effects of long term drug use on fertility are only temporary. For instance, the reduced sperm counts associated with marijuana and cocaine are reported to improve when use of the drugs is stopped. However, other effects such as malformation of fallopian tubes in women are more permanent. And because sex and fertility are such critical components to being physically and emotionally healthy, the gratification of drug use now seems foolish at the least.
If you’re concerned about someone who may have a drug problem, you should pick up the phone and call our Inpatient Substance Abuse Treatment Center for a free consultation right now. We recognize that vital aspects of human health like fertility need to be protected and preserved. We can help your loved one to stop using drugs or alcohol one day at a time. Call us now to find out how.
(1) Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/infertility/DS00310/DSECTION=causes 06/01/2011. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research