Recreational drug use can damage organs, bring disease and infections, and impair physical, mental, and emotional health. So, it’s not a stretch to think that abusing substances can also affect the male and female reproductive systems in damaging, and possibly irreversible, ways. Recreational drug users who are actively trying to get pregnant or think they might want to get pregnant in the future might want to consider the possible lasting effects of drug use on their fertility.
While research varies on how legal and illegal drugs affect reproductive health, it is safe to assume that any mind-altering, mood-altering drugs can affect fertility, or one’s ability to get pregnant or stay pregnant once conception has taken place.
What Is Infertility?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that infertility is the inability to get pregnant after one year or longer of unprotected sex. It is a common problem, the CDC says, but it’s not only a woman’s problem. Men and women can both have problems conceiving, and age is among the primary reasons why couples have problems. According to the CDC, about six percent of U.S. women ages 15-44 are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, for 25 percent of couples who are facing fertility challenges, there’s more than one reason involved.
Substance Use and Trying to Get Pregnant Not a Good Mix
Substance use can raise the risk of infertility in male and female recreational drug users. Below is a list of drugs and some of the conditions they cause that can either delay or lessen the chances of having a baby.
Women and men are advised to abstain from drinking alcohol if they are trying to conceive. Research suggests that drinking alcohol heavily can lower fertility for both sexes. In men, heavy alcohol consumption can cause impotence, reduce libido, and affect the quantity and quality of the men’s sperm. Excessive alcohol use can result in lower testosterone levels. For women, drinking a lot of alcoholic beverages could also lead to miscarriage, preterm birth, and stillbirth.
Marijuana is thought to be a harmless substance, but the drug can, indeed, affect fertility. In men, chronic marijuana use can change sperm quantity, quality, and behavior.
One study in which scientists examined sperm samples of 1,970 men from UK-based fertility clinics found that men who smoked cannabis within three months before ejaculating had abnormal sperm. Researchers analyzed only how marijuana use was associated with abnormal sperm morphology. The study did not explore how smoking marijuana affects the shape of sperm.
Marijuana use also can cause low sperm counts, according to an article from Vice, which talked with Dr. Ricardo Yazigi of Shady Grove Fertility Center in Maryland about the subject. “About 33 percent of chronic users will have low sperm counts. Binding of the active components and metabolites of marijuana to receptors on sperm themselves has also been shown to lead to decreasing [sperm] motility rates,” Yazigi told the publication.
According to ConceptionAdvice.com, research shows that marijuana can affect hormonal regulation in the brain for the woman, which stops ovulation from occurring. If the process does occur, the passage of a fertilized egg to the uterus may be delayed. In that case, it won’t implant at the right time. Also, according to the site, these effects can last long after marijuana use has stopped. Despite these effects, a woman’s fertility can return to normal once she has stopped using cannabis, the site says.
This addictive stimulant can affect fertility significantly for women, and possibly permanently, research shows. It can interfere with hormone regulation, which can result in irregular menstrual periods and prevent ovulation from occurring. It is also possible for cocaine to cause abnormalities in the Fallopian tubes and permanently damage them. In severe cases, the condition may be irreversible. Some women with this condition may need to pursue fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). In men, excessive cocaine use has been linked to erectile dysfunction.
Habitual and long-term use of methamphetamines, an addictive stimulant, can lower testosterone production because of the drug’s effects on the seminiferous tubules, which are a support system for men’s testes, according to a Vice article. Vascular constriction and blood flow issues also can harm sperm. Women who use meth can experience problems with ovulation, and according to Vice, “prenatal meth use can cause arrhythmia, hypothermia, seizures, and stroke.” Pregnant female meth users can have a miscarriage, and babies affected by meth use can be born prematurely and have neurological complications.
Researchers are continuing to study the effects of long-term opioid usage on male and female fertility. Chronic use of heroin, oxycodone, Vicodin, and other opioids can cause issues with the reproductive system. Erectile dysfunction has been found in male heroin users, even those who have quit using. One study found that heroin also has been found to affect the quality and motility of sperm, too. Opioid use also can complicate women’s ability to get pregnant. Hormonal issues and lower libido can also result from opioid use.
Excessive cigarette smoking increases the risk of infertility. Women can experience ovulation problems, genetic issues, reproductive organ damage, damage to eggs, and a higher risk of miscarriage. As with other drugs, men who smoke are at risk of not being able to get or maintain an erection. They also may have a lower sperm count and experience sperm motility issues.
Your Journey to Recovery Can Start Today
The American Pregnancy Association says infertility is a growing problem for many couples. It is estimated that about 10 percent of U.S. couples of childbearing age face challenges with trying to get pregnant. Drug use, legal and illegal, can reduce the chances of having a baby or a healthy baby. Drug users who want children in the future are advised to quit their use immediately. In many cases, that’s easier said in done when addiction has set in.
Maryland House Detox, the only freestanding detox center in Maryland, can help you start the journey to ending dependence on drugs. We offer comprehensive detox services in a comfortable, intimate setting and with the guidance of a compassionate, knowledgeable staff of medical professionals.
Once your detox is complete, we can connect you with a long-term treatment center that aims to meet your unique needs. Give us a call 24/7 at 888-263-0631 to speak with our addiction staff about taking your first step along the road to sobriety.