Drugs & Medication & Sperm Health

This article will describe the influence of various legal and illegal drugs on sperm health and male fertility.

  1. Which Drugs Affect Sperm Health And Fertility?
  2. Prescription Medications
  3. What Are The Options For People Who Use These Drugs?

Which Drugs Affect Sperm Health And Fertility?

Male fertility is complex and depends on many external and internal factors, and certain drugs may affect your sperm health and production. Certain steps may also be taken to help improve sperm health.

It is always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting any medication, especially if you are trying to conceive.

Some of the common drugs that influence sperm health or male fertility are as follows:

Testosterone Supplements

Recently, there has been a boom in the supplement market. Some experts call it ‘the low T-boom”.

Exogenous testosterone activates the negative feedback loop in your body. It means when you have high testosterone levels, your brain receives a signal to tone down its production in the body.

If this goes on for long, your body goes into a hibernating mode and forgets its testosterone secretion. It leads to low libido and poor sexual health.

Although testosterone is not a primary spermatogenesis hormone, it does assist the process. Moreover, testosterone supplements also affect the regulation of other sex hormones.

A high testosterone level in the body impairs the secretion of follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Both these are directly involved in the division of spermatozoa and its maturation in testes.

Therefore, those who take testosterone might feel more alert for a while, but their sperm analysis test manifests low sperm count.

Marijuana

Marijuana causes low sperm count and poor sperm motility.

It is the most popular recreational drug among American men of age group 26 to 34 years. These are adult years when your fertility levels are supposed to be at their best. However, the sperm analysis tests of marijuana users show oligospermia (low sperm count).

Marijuana has many cannabinoids but the most adverse effects come from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is the psychoactive constituent of marijuana and gives you a ‘high’ feeling.

THC reduces the levels of luteinizing hormone in your body. It results in impairment of spermatogenesis and resultant low sperm concentrations.

THC also directly interacts with your sperm cells. The research shows that human sperm has specific receptors that respond to THC. It attaches to sperm and acts as a hook, stopping them from moving progressively.

Cocaine

The risk of low sperm count is double in cocaine users as compared to those without its dependence. Cocaine activates your sympathetic nervous system. It makes you hyperactive, increases your heart rate, and puts you into a fight or flight mode. In such a condition, your blood vessels constrict and impede the flow to organs.

Experts speculate that this decrease in blood flow continuously deprives testes of essential nutrients and oxygen. It is evident from research studies that demonstrate abnormalities in seminiferous tubules of testes in cocaine consumers.

Since your sperm formation occurs in these tubes, their structural deterioration leads to a low sperm count.

Ecstasy

The effect of ecstasy on sperm health needs further research. However, scientists agree that it effectively influences testosterone secretion. It does not deteriorate sperm parameters, but its excessive and prolonged use affects your testicular tubules.

Opiates

Opium has recreational as well as medical use. It lowers your sperm quality and excessive opium users underdo DNA fragmentation of their sperm cells.

The toxic substances in opium attack sperm cells and destroy their structure. So, most of the sperm cells have the head, tail, or midpiece defects.

The sperm concentration also reduces to approximately half. It does not make you infertile per se, but it decreases the likelihood of pregnancy.

Apart from the aforementioned illicit drugs, alcohol and tobacco usage also influences sperm parameters.

Prescription Medications

Many FDA-approved medicines also create sexual health problems.

Antidepressants

This group of medications is a double-edged sword. Although they are necessary for treating depression, you need to be mindful of their sexual side effects.

Some types of antidepressants cause erectile dysfunction, low libido, and delayed orgasm. The sperm parameters stay unaffected except for slight DNA fragmentation in the users. However, the overall sexual takes a significant hit, decreasing your chances of getting pregnant.

Hypertension Medications

Not all, but rarely a specific type of hypertension medication may lower your sperm motility. These are known as calcium channel blockers. They also can temporarily reduce the ability of sperm to fertilize the ovum.

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy has extensive adverse effects on sperm health. The reason behind this is the inability of these chemicals to discriminate between cancerous and normal body cells.

Therefore, sperm cells often become a victim, and semen analysis depicts azoospermia.

What Are The Options For People Who Use These Drugs?

If you take any of these medications or foresee a potential future use, you should consider banking your sperm.

Sperm freezing provides a safe alternative for people at risk of developing diseases that may need such medications. If you have already started these medications, you can take an in-home semen analysis test. It allows you to monitor your sperm parameters before you can preserve them.

  1. Brezina, P. R., Yunus, F. N., & Zhao, Y. (2012). Effects of pharmaceutical medications on male fertility. Journal of reproduction & infertility, 13(1), 3–11.
  2. Ding, J., Shang, X., Zhang, Z., Jing, H., Shao, J., Fei, Q., Rayburn, E. R., & Li, H. (2017). FDA-approved medications that impair human spermatogenesis. Oncotarget, 8(6), 10714–10725.
  3. Safarinejad, M. R., Asgari, S. A., Farshi, A., Ghaedi, G., Kolahi, A. A., Iravani, S., & Khoshdel, A. R. (2013). The effects of opiate consumption on serum reproductive hormone levels, sperm parameters, seminal plasma antioxidant capacity, and sperm DNA integrity. Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, N.Y.), 36, 18–23.
  4. Barenys, M., Macia, N., Camps, L., de Lapuente, J., Gomez-Catalan, J., Gonzalez-Linares, J., Borras, M., Rodamilans, M., & Llobet, J. M. (2009). Chronic exposure to MDMA (ecstasy) increases DNA damage in sperm and alters testes histopathology in male rats. Toxicology letters, 191(1), 40–46.

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