Suboxone is a medication used for treating Opioid Use Disorder. It has proven to be highly effective when used under proper medical supervision and as part of a complete treatment program.
While Suboxone is generally considered a safe medication, it has potential side effects — some of which relate to sexual function and sex drive.
Does Suboxone Have Side Effects Sexually?
Yes, Suboxone is known to have sexual side effects. Buprenorphine, the active ingredient in Suboxone, is a partial opioid agonist.
All opioids are known to cause sexual dysfunction. Just like other opioids, Suboxone activates the brain’s opioid receptors which can in turn affect your sexual health and sex life.
The sexual side effects of Suboxone are less intense than those of full opioids such as heroin. However, they can still cause discomfort and be troublesome to experience.
The Sexual Effects of Suboxone
Suboxone has the potential to reduce testosterone in both males and females. Buprenorphine stimulates the μ-opioid receptor in the brain, which can suppress the brain’s release of important sexual hormones including testosterone.
Decreased libido or changes in sexual desire
Furthermore, it is thought that activating the μ-opioid receptor prevents the release of the neurotransmitters responsible for producing sexual desire.
Some Suboxone patients may experience a decrease in libido, and have a much lower, or even nonexistent sex drive. It is often reported that buprenorphine patients experience difficulty reaching orgasm.
More research is needed to confirm exactly why this occurs, but it is likely also due to the activation of the μ-opioid receptor preventing sexual desire neurotransmitters from being produced.
Opioid use can reduce fertility in both men and women. As Buprenorphine is a partial opioid agonist, it may have similar outcomes.
As mentioned above, Suboxone can inhibit testosterone production. Low testosterone levels impact sperm count in men, subsequently reducing male fertility.
Further, sexual dysfunction in both men and women can reduce the chances of becoming pregnant. However, Suboxone is considered the safest OUD treatment medication for pregnant women as it has not yet been proven to cause adverse effects during pregnancy or birth.
The Sexual Effects of Suboxone in Men
As mentioned above, a lack of testosterone production and an inhibited release of sexual desire neurotransmitters can cause erectile dysfunction in men. Research has shown that erectile dysfunction rates are high in patients that take buprenorphine medications.
It is not quite clear whether this is solely due to the medication itself, or as a result of other factors such as a history of drug abuse or mental health issues. Erectile dysfunction can affect one’s self-esteem, relationships and quality of life.
On the other hand, it has been reported that Suboxone can cause premature ejaculation in some males.
The Sexual Effects of Suboxone in Women
Irregular menstrual cycles
Suboxone inhibits the production of LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) in females. These hormones contribute to a healthy and regular menstrual cycle.
When these hormones are disrupted by Suboxone, women may experience lighter, shorter, or irregular menstrual cycles. Some women may stop menstruation temporarily.
Suboxone may impair female sexual function during intercourse. Along with a lack of sexual desire, women may experience painful orgasm or have difficulty reaching orgasm at all.
What To Do About It
Consult a healthcare professional
Communicate with your doctor, treatment provider, or another healthcare professional about any sexual side effects you are experiencing while taking Suboxone. Your doctor may determine another root cause for the issue, such as a mental health condition or hormone disorder.
Alternatively, you and your doctor may come to the conclusion that Suboxone is impairing sexual function. If this is the case, there are steps that can be taken to find relief.
Adjust medication dosage
Adjusting your Suboxone dosage may reduce unwanted sexual side effects. Discuss your concerns with your doctor, and collaborate to determine an appropriate dose that allows Suboxone to do its job (reduce withdrawals and cravings) while minimizing unwanted side effects.
Explore alternative treatments for sexual dysfunction
Alternative treatments may be useful for treating sexual dysfunction.
Several studies have proven that alternative or natural medicines can be effective in relieving sexual dysfunction, including antidepressants and herbal remedies like ginseng or maca powder.
Males may wish to use Viagra to help with erectile dysfunction, which is considered safe for use alongside Suboxone.
Consider therapy or counseling
Mental health struggles may impact sexual function and desire. If this is the case, it could be beneficial to engage in counseling or therapy. Seeking help from a professional to work on your mental health may significantly improve other areas of your life, such as your sexual well-being.
Monitor and communicate side effects
As with any side effect of any medication, it’s important you’re open with your doctor and communicate how you are feeling and/or what you are experiencing. Your doctor or care team will be able to assist you in reducing unwanted side effects, and may recommend alternative treatments and/or adjust your dose in order to find relief.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will improve your overall health, both physically and mentally. Good health may enhance your sexual function and sex life. Prioritize good nutrition, daily exercise, and deal with stress and negative emotions.
Suboxone is a medication that can be highly effective in treating OUD, particularly when used as part of a complete treatment program that includes counseling and therapy. While Suboxone can cause sexual side effects, these can be managed and Suboxone is generally considered a safe medication.
If you are experiencing any troublesome sexual side effects whilst taking Suboxone, talk to your doctor or treatment provider to determine a viable solution. It’s highly important to use Suboxone under proper medical supervision.
Maintain open communication with your doctor and take Suboxone exactly as prescribed in order to enhance the medication’s effectiveness, increase your chances of a successful recovery, and reduce unwanted side effects.