Sexual Functioning and Opioid Maintenance Treatment in Women. Results From a Large Multicentre Study.Front Behav Neurosci. 2019; 13:97.FB
Opioid maintenance treatment (OMT) is the most widespread therapy for both females and males opioid addicts. While many studies have evaluated the OMT impact on men's sexuality, the data collected about the change in women's sexual functioning is still limited despite the fact that it is now well-known that opioids - both endogenous and exogenous - affect the endocrine system and play an important role in sexual functioning. The present study aims to determine how OMT with buprenorphine (BUP) or methadone (MTD) affects sexual health in women; examining also any possible emerging correlation between sexual dysfunction (SD), type of opioid and patients' mental health. This multi-center study case recruited 258 female volunteers attending Italian public Addiction Outpatients Centers that were stabilized with OMT for at least 3 months. SD was assessed with the Arizona Sexual Experience Scale. The twelve-item General Health Questionnaire was used to assess participants' mental health conditions. The results show that 56.6% of women receiving OMT for at least 3 months presented SD without significant differences between MTD e BUP groups. The majority of the subjects with SD have a poorer quality of intimate relationships and worse mental health than the average. To the best of our knowledge, the present study is the largest report on the presence of SDs in women as a side effects of MTD and BUP used in OMT. Since SDs cause difficulties in intimate relationships, lower patients' quality of life and interfere with OMT beneficial outcomes, we recommend that women undertaking an opioid therapy have routine screening for SD and we highlight the importance to better examine opioid-endocrine interactions in future studies in order to provide alternative potential treatments such as the choice of opioid, opioid dose reduction and hormone supplementation.