Chronic opiate exposure in the male rat adversely affects fertility

Theodore J. Cicero, L. A. Davis, M. C. LaRegina, E. R. Meyer, M. S. Schlegel

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36 Scopus citations


We examined whether morphine administration to adult male rats adversely affected pregnancy outcome after mating with drug-naive females and at what point in the complex series of steps leading to viable offspring it exerted its actions. The results indicate that chronic paternal morphine exposure markedly influenced fertility measures in a number of important ways. There was a pronounced increase in pseudopregnancies in females mated with males treated chronically with morphine (40%) when compared to controls (<6%), indicating that vaginal penetration occurred, but successful impregnation failed; only 33% of matings between drug-naive females and morphine-treated males resulted in pregnancies, as compared to 74.5% in controls. In addition, there were fewer implantation sites in gravid females mated with morphine-treated males than in controls. Taken together, these observations suggest that morphine-exposed male rats were apparently able to copulate, but there was a failure in successful impregnation of the females. These findings suggest a primary defect in either the quality of male sexual behavior or a complete failure of the fertilization or conception processes in females mated with morphine-exposed males. This potentially important effect of paternal morphine administration on conception and/or preimplementation loss of embryos has not been previously noted and deserves more systematic study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-163
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2002


  • Morphine and reproduction
  • Opiates
  • Opiates and reproduction
  • Paternal influences
  • Paternal opiate administration
  • Reproductive function


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