Opioids, Women and Libido (OWL) Study

  • Research type

    Research Study

  • Full title

    Long-term opioids in women with musculoskeletal pain in primary care and associated sexual dysfunction: A cross-sectional survey.



  • Contact name

    Emily Wersocki

  • Contact email


  • Sponsor organisation

    Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences

  • Duration of Study in the UK

    0 years, 3 months, 7 days

  • Research summary

    22% of primary care attendees suffer with chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP), 12-13% are prescribed opioids. Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions are a leading cause of CNCP and account for 1 in 7 primary care consultations in the United Kingdom (UK). Since the 1980’s there has been an increase in opioid prescribing for CNCP. Adverse effects are common with up to 80% of those taking opioids affected by at least one. Long-term opioid use can lead to reproductive dysfunction in men (low libido, impotence) and in women taking illegal opioids but evidence is limited in prescribed opioids. A recent systematic review found a small amount of evidence that supported a possible relationship between long-term prescribed opioid use in women and reproductive and sexual dysfunction. A CPRD cohort study in women found an increased risk of menopausal symptoms and abnormal menstruation in long-term (>90 days) opioid users with MSK conditions, but low numbers of women with low libido when compared with population estimates, suggesting a different approach is needed to investigate this in future research. We intend to investigate the prevalence of low libido in women receiving opioids for MSK pain and compare the prevalence between those receiving short-term and long-term opioids. We intend to undertake a cross-sectional postal survey of women aged 18-45 years old who are prescribed opioids for MSK pain. Participants will be identified from General Practices within the West Midlands Clinical Research Network. We will send a single postal survey to 1000 women, with two follow up mailings for non-responders. We will also ask for consent to review anonymised medical records for past medical history, medication use and previously recorded reproductive or sexual problems. This is an important area, as with increasing levels of opioid prescribing it is important to increase the evidence around their use and adverse effects.

  • REC name

    West of Scotland REC 5

  • REC reference


  • Date of REC Opinion

    1 Sep 2017

  • REC opinion

    Further Information Favourable Opinion

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