Opioids are among the oldest known and most widely used analgesics. The application of opioids has expanded over the last few decades, especially in the treatment of chronic non-malignant pain. This upsurge in opioid use has been accompanied by the increasingly recognized occurrence of opioid-associated endocrinopathy. This may arise after exposure to enteral, parenteral, or neuraxial opioids. Opioid-associated endocrinopathy consists primarily of hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction and may manifest with symptoms of hypogonadism, adrenal dysfunction, and other hormonal disturbances. Additionally, opioid related endocrine dysfunction may be coupled with such disorders as osteoporosis and mood disturbances including depression. Undesirable changes in pain sensitivity such as opioid-induced hyperalgesia, and reduced potency of opioid analgesia may also be potential consequences of chronic opioid consumption. Few studies to date have been able to establish what degree of opioid exposure, in terms of dose or duration of therapy, may predispose patients to opioid-associated endocrinopathy. This article will review the currently available literature concerning opioid-associated endocrinopathy and will provide recommendations for the evaluation, monitoring, and management of opioid-associated endocrinopathy and its other accompanying undesired effects.
Keywords: Opioids, endocrine, hypogonadism, testosterone, androgens, osteoporosis, depression, hyperalgesia, dose, opioid-associated endocrinopathy.