Medical and Psychological Risks and Consequences of Long-Term Opioid Therapy in Women

Pain Med. 2012 Sep;13(9):1181-211. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2012.01467.x. Epub 2012 Aug 20.


Background: Long-term opioid use has increased substantially over the past decade for U.S. women. Women are more likely than men to have a chronic pain condition, to be treated with opioids, and may receive higher doses. Prescribing trends persist despite limited evidence to support the long-term benefit of this pain treatment approach.

Purpose: To review the medical and psychological risks and consequences of long-term opioid therapy in women.

Method: Scientific literature containing relevant keywords and content were reviewed.

Results and conclusions: Long-term opioid use exposes women to unique risks, including endocrinopathy, reduced fertility, neonatal risks, as well as greater risk for polypharmacy, cardiac risks, poisoning and unintentional overdose, among other risks. Risks for women appear to vary by age and psychosocial factors may be bidirectionally related to opioid use. Gaps in understanding and priorities for future research are highlighted.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors


  • Analgesics, Opioid