Drugs use whether legally prescribed or illegally acquired may have adverse effects on male fertility. The spectrum of these drugs is extensive spanning from legal to illegal drugs. Even clinically prescribed drugs through moderated can have the same effect.
Should you be using these drugs and have difficulty initiating pregnancy, you should seek medical attention. Some of the drugs are likely to cause low-quality sperm and male infertility.
Anabolic steroids are commonly abused drugs used to build muscle mass and/or decrease body fat. Testosterone is an anabolic steroid. The use of these drugs is increasing among non-competitive athletes and non-athletes for fitness purposes. Unfortunately, fitness and muscle-building dietary supplements from less reputable sources may be tainted with anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids harm male fertility the same way testosterone does —by interfering with the hormone signals that are needed to produce sperm. Just how much damage is done depends on the drugs, dose, and how long a man takes them.
Because of the strong negative impact of anabolic steroids on male fertility and the other health concerns related to these substances, men are advised not to use these drugs.
Alcohol consumption (more than 10 to 14 drinks a week) may decrease the production of testosterone thereby increasing the rate at which testosterone is cleared from the bloodstream and increasing a man’s oestrogen levels. All of these can cause a lower testosterone level, which can affect sperm production.
Men who drink more than 10 to 14 alcoholic beverages per week regularly should consider drinking less.
Tobacco is linked to serious health conditions. Babies in households with people who smoke are much more likely to have serious respiratory illnesses such as severe asthma, pneumonia, and repeated ear infections.
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has also been linked to smokers in the household. Smoking also hurts your sperm production and the movement of sperm. For these reasons, couples who are trying to conceive should stop smoking.
Of course, these effects are not only the risks of smoking but there are other effects mostly a high risk of different types of cancers like cancer bladder and kidney.
Marijuana contains a substance called THC, which may decrease sperm production and weakens sexual drive by interfering with the production of testosterone. THC may also have a direct harmful effect on the movement of sperm which leads to infertility or sub-infertility.
Men undergoing chemotherapy medications treatment may experience an infertility episode. This is because all drugs used to treat cancer inhibit sperm production.
Depending on the type of chemotherapy drug used and the duration of treatment, men may have a return of sperm production within two years.
In many men, sperm production never returns and the man becomes infertile. If you are preparing to go on chemotherapy, talk to your doctor about freezing sperm before starting the chemotherapy.
These are prescription medications for treating pain and addiction. Long-term use of opiates can disrupt the signals that control testosterone production, which can cause low testosterone and decrease the quantity and quality of the sperm.
The extent of the damage depends on the type of opiates, the dose, and how long they’ve been used.
Men taking opiates to treat addiction should speak with their addiction counsellor about the impact of their medications on fertility, as some treatments are less harmful than others.
There is no evidence that the short-term use of opiates harms male fertility. If you’re on a short course of opiates, for instance, to control pain after surgery or a broken bone, take these medications according to the instructions given. If you take opiates for weeks or months, talk to your provider about how to cut back on opiate use.
Dr Yousef is a consultant urologist at Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi
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