Prescription opioids for back pain and use of medications for erectile dysfunction

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2013 May 15;38(11):909-15. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3182830482.


Study design: Cross-sectional analysis of electronic medical and pharmacy records.

Objective: To examine associations between use of medication for erectile dysfunction or testosterone replacement and use of opioid therapy, patient age, depression, and smoking status.

Summary of background data: Males with chronic pain may experience erectile dysfunction related to depression, smoking, age, or opioid-related hypogonadism. The prevalence of this problem in back pain populations and the relative importance of several risk factors are unknown.

Methods: We examined electronic pharmacy and medical records for males with back pain in a large group model health maintenance organization during 2004. Relevant prescriptions were considered for 6 months before and after the index visit.

Results: There were 11,327 males with a diagnosis of back pain. Males who received medications for erectile dysfunction or testosterone replacement (n = 909) were significantly older than those who did not and had greater comorbidity, depression, smoking, and use of sedative-hypnotics. In logistic regressions, the long-term use of opioids was associated with greater use of medications for erectile dysfunction or testosterone replacement compared with no opioid use (odds ratio, 1.45; 95% confidence interval, 1.12-1.87, P < 0.01). Age, comorbidity, depression, and use of sedative-hypnotics were also independently associated with the use of medications for erectile dysfunction or testosterone replacement. Patients prescribed daily opioid doses of 120 mg of morphine-equivalents or more had greater use of medication for erectile dysfunction or testosterone replacement than patients without opioid use (odds ratio, 1.58; 95% confidence interval, 1.03-2.43), even with adjustment for the duration of opioid therapy.

Conclusion: Dose and duration of opioid use, as well as age, comorbidity, depression, and use of sedative-hypnotics, were associated with evidence of erectile dysfunction. These findings may be important in the process of decision making for the long-term use of opioids.

Level of evidence: 4.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use*
  • Androgens / therapeutic use
  • Back Pain / drug therapy*
  • Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Carbolines / therapeutic use
  • Comorbidity
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Erectile Dysfunction / chemically induced
  • Erectile Dysfunction / drug therapy*
  • Erectile Dysfunction / epidemiology
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Humans
  • Imidazoles / therapeutic use
  • Insurance, Health / organization & administration
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Piperazines / therapeutic use
  • Prevalence
  • Purines / therapeutic use
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Sulfones / therapeutic use
  • Tadalafil
  • Testosterone / therapeutic use*
  • Triazines / therapeutic use
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Urological Agents / therapeutic use
  • Vardenafil Dihydrochloride


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Androgens
  • Carbolines
  • Imidazoles
  • Piperazines
  • Purines
  • Sulfones
  • Triazines
  • Urological Agents
  • Testosterone
  • Vardenafil Dihydrochloride
  • Tadalafil
  • Sildenafil Citrate