Methadone & Sex Drive | Effects Of Methadone On Sex & Intimacy

Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS

on March 11, 2023

Methadone can cause sexual dysfunction, including lack of sexual desire, delayed orgasm, and erectile issues. Sex problems can strain intimate relationships and may trigger substance abuse.

Methadone is an opioid often used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction. In recent years, doctors have prescribed it for pain relief as well. 

Research shows that both men and women taking methadone may suffer from opioid-induced sexual dysfunction.

How Does Methadone Affect Sexual Function?

Methadone affects sexual function by changing hormone levels in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. The HPG is the part of the brain primarily responsible for sexual activity. 

Endocrine glands in the HPG axis release sex hormones like testosterone and prolactin. Methadone decreases testosterone and increases prolactin, which can throw your sex life off balance. 

Testosterone is an androgen—or male sex hormone—but females have it, too. Lower testosterone levels lead to erectile dysfunction (the inability to get or keep an erection) in men and less sexual desire in both genders. Men may also struggle with delayed ejaculation.

Prolactin’s primary function is to help the breasts produce milk after childbirth. Raised prolactin levels can decrease sexual desire and make orgasm difficult for a woman or a man. In women, too much prolactin can also affect personal lubrication.

Some studies have found that the prevalence of sexual dysfunction and self-reported sexual dissatisfaction is higher among people in methadone MAT who have chronic pain. Individuals who abuse methadone are also more likely to have adverse sexual side effects.

Methadone & Intimacy

Sexual dysfunction can get in the way of an intimate relationship. Problems with sex tend to spill over into other areas, such as communication and emotional connection.

Some couples fight about sexual issues. Others ignore them, which can build resentment and distance rather than intimacy.

Many people lack the skills to deal with sexual problems effectively. Men tend to respond to sexual dysfunction by distancing themselves from their partners and refusing sex. Women are more likely to hide their decreased desire and continue to try to satisfy their partners.

There’s more to the problem than sexual dysfunction, too. If you’re taking methadone, you’re either struggling with opioid abuse or pain, both of which can stunt an intimate relationship. 

Sex problems and relationship strain are stressful and may cause a feeling of shame. Stress and shame are triggers for substance use. Your difficulty with sex might lead to more drug use that increases sexual dysfunction and decreases your quality of life.

How Does Methadone Work?

Methadone is an opioid agonist. It activates opioid receptors in the brain and body. This action can relieve withdrawal symptoms and cravings in people who struggle with opioid dependence.

When you use methadone for pain relief, it works by changing the way your brain perceives pain. You’ll feel better because the opioid interrupts brain signals that tell your body you’re in pain. Instead, you may feel calm, relaxed, and euphoric.

In methadone maintenance treatment (MMT), your dose will be closely monitored, so you don’t feel the intense euphoria that makes opiates addictive.

Sex & Methadone Medication-Assisted Treatment

All opioids have the potential to affect sexual function and desire. One study found that methadone had a stronger effect on sexual intimacy than heroin, which makes it difficult for some people to stay in opioid treatment. 

However, in medication-assisted treatment, methadone may have less effect on your sexual life than heroin addiction since you’re taking a low, regulated dose of methadone rather than high doses of heroin.

The dosage of methadone correlates with how much it affects sexual function. Higher doses can cause more sex issues, but over time your body adjusts, and these issues may alleviate.

A few problems associated with methadone MAT and sex include:

  • Clinicians rarely address sexual dysfunction as part of addiction treatment.
  • Pain isn’t always treated in addiction treatment, and pain can increase sexual issues.
  • Problems with sexual intimacy can be a trigger for substance abuse.

Some research has been done to relieve sexual dysfunction and help people find success in MAT. A 2019 study found that individuals who took ginseng extract while in methadone maintenance therapy experienced fewer sexual side effects and a quicker decrease in sexual issues over time.

People who take methadone tend to have lower sexual desire than people in buprenorphine maintenance treatment. If methadone interferes with your sex life too much, other medications and treatment options are available for opioid addiction recovery.

Methadone Treatment In Ohio

At Ohio Recovery Center, we offer MAT for opioid use disorder as part of a personalized treatment plan. Our evidence-based, inpatient treatment can be tailored to your needs, increasing your chance of recovery success. 

In our MAT programs, we combine FDA-approved addiction medicine with behavioral therapy, counseling, support groups, and experiential therapies. Since addiction affects your physical, spiritual, and mental health, it’s essential to treat the whole person.

Our healthcare professionals are available around-the-clock to ensure your safety and encourage your healing. Contact an Ohio Recovery Center specialist today and start your journey.

  1. American Journal of Men’s Health — Sexual Desire in Opiate-Dependent Men Receiving Methadone-Assisted Treatment https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6131441/
  2. Annals of General Psychiatry — A comparison of sexual desire in opiate-dependent men receiving methadone and buprenorphine maintenance treatment https://annals-general-psychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12991-019-0249-z
  3. Dovepress — Sexual life satisfaction of methadone-maintained Chinese patients: individuals with pain are dissatisfied with their sex lives https://www.dovepress.com/sexual-life-satisfaction-of-methadone-maintained-chinese-patients-indi-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-JPR
  4. Elsevier: Psychiatry Research — Ginsing treatment improves the sexual side effects of methadone maintenance treatment https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165178119306444
  5. HSOA Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health Care — The Effect of Methadone on Sexual Function in Men Dependent on Opiates https://www.heraldopenaccess.us/openaccess/the-effect-of-methadone-on-sexual-function-in-men-dependent-on-opiates
  6. Psychology, Health, and Medicine — Sexual dysfunction during methadone maintenance treatment and its influence on patient's life and treatment: a qualitative study in South China https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23092392/#:~:text=The%20main%20SD%20problems%20patients,life%20and%20damaged%20intimate%20relationships

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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