Endocrine and Reproductive Systems

Many fundamental challenges remain in understanding the impact of ALCOHOL and drugs on endocrine and reproductive function. This article presents what is currently known; before beginning, a few caveats deserve attention.

Many factors may influence the degree to which illegal drug or alcohol abuse may cause an abnormality of endocrine or reproductive function. These factors include (1) the amount and duration of consumption; (2) the route of illegal drug administration; (3) whether there is preexisting or concurrent damage to an endocrine/reproductive organ; (4) concurrent use of another drug; and (5) the genetic predilection for an endocrine disorder. Often, our knowledge about these factors and how they interact with one another is more limited than what is known about the range of endocrine and reproductive dysfunction associated with the chronic consumption of alcohol and the abuse of illicit drugs.

Knowledge is also limited because some endocrine or reproductive consequences may be mani fested only by an abnormal result from a laboratory (biochemical) test. The absence of a physical sign or a clinical symptom may lead to the false impression that there is no endocrine/reproductive consequence. In addition, there are challenges in ascertaining whether the alcohol- or drug-abuse related endocrine/reproductive dysfunction is due to the drug itself or to the social context in which the drug is used. Finally, endocrine or reproductive disturbances may also occur from the consequences of WITHDRAWAL syndromes when the drugs or alcohol ingestion is stopped or reduced. To the extent to which these issues have been clarified, we will note them here.

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