How taking cocaine affects your period, as explained by a doctor

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How taking cocaine affects your period, as explained by a doctor

It can imbalance hormones and delay your period

The other day, my friend was panicking over not getting her period. It was unusual for her, they normally come like clockwork, and she’d taken five pregnancy tests – all negative. So she wasn’t pregnant, she wasn’t stressed and she’d been eating normally – the only thing she’d done differently that month was a lot of coke. I’d never heard of anything like that before, so I skeptically searched Google.

There were hundreds of results, forums and studies around the effects of recreational drugs, coke in particular, on fertility and your period. Supposedly, it can mess with your hormones and make your period irregular. Not knowing what to believe, I spoke to Dr. Vivika Joshi, GP at DrFelix to find out what recreational drugs can do to our menstrual cycle.

Is it true that cocaine and other recreational drugs affect your menstrual cycle?

Unfortunately, little research has been done into the specific effects of recreational drugs on the menstrual cycle. However, cocaine causes a spike in levels of the hormone prolactin. In high amounts, prolactin can inhibit ovulation, causing hormonal imbalances and delayed, irregular periods. These effects would normally be from regular abuse. There is a similarity in prolactin levels between heavy cocaine users and sufferers of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, where some patients can suffer from fertility problems due to a lack of ovulation; hence women who abuse cocaine may have difficulty conceiving.

Can where you are on your menstrual cycle effect your experience taking drugs?

Interestingly, research has found that hormonal factors, including the phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle can affect their responsiveness to amphetamines. If the stimulants are during the follicular phase of the cycle – roughly days 1 to 12 – users typically have a more pleasant experience and crave the drug more than they do if they take amphetamines during other times of the cycle. This is likely due to the changing characteristics of dopamine receptors in the brain, which fluctuate during the menstrual cycle.

Are certain drugs worse than others?

Although not conclusive, we know of research in the various effects of other substances on the menstrual cycle. For example, cannabis is widely claimed to help alleviate the symptoms of PMT but THC – the psychoactive substance in cannabis can alter the length of the menstrual cycle.

Opioids like heroin and morphine also interfere with the release of gonadotropins (luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormones) from the pituitary gland. Any changes to the normal pulsatile release of luteinising hormone affects the menstrual cycle, with many opiate users reporting a complete cessation to their periods.

If it does affect your menstrual cycle – how long will it take to return to normal?

As with most conditions, this is a natural process, and really depends on the individual and their circumstances. It would be difficult to predict this timeframe.

Do recreational drugs affect your fertility?

Studies have shown that tubal abnormality (damage to the fallopian tubes) increases with cocaine use causing serious problems for fertility, and increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy in the event of conception.

Fertility issues in cannabis users have also been reported, with a higher risk of infertility due to abnormalities in ovulation. The risk is typically higher amongst women who have used cannabis within a year of trying to get pregnant.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Why you might still miss your period even if you’re not pregnant

This is what it feels like to have sex on different drugs 

Natural remedies to make your period finish as quickly as possible

Illustration by Daisy Bernard Art.

@daisy_bernard