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How does gender affect response to pain medication?

Dawn Marcus
Neurology
Unfortunately, many doctors are not aware that pain medications work differently for men and women.

To illustrate this, one research study showed that ibuprofen effectively reduced the threshold to experiencing experimental pain in men. In women, ibuprofen was no better than taking a sugar pill or placebo. In addition, certain narcotic painkillers (also called opioids) work better in men, while others work better in women. One class of narcotics, called mu-opioids, work better in men; morphine is an example of a mu-opioid.

One study comparing postoperative pain in men and women found that women required a 30 percent higher morphine dose to get pain relief than did men. Another class of narcotics, called kappa-opioids, work better in women; butorphanol is an example of a kappaopioid that is often used during delivery to control labor pain or provide epidural anesthesia. Although it is not understood why gender differences occur, it is very clear that these differences are real. Estrogen is likely to be responsible for them.
The Woman's Migraine Toolkit: Managing Your Headaches from Puberty to Menopause (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

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The Woman's Migraine Toolkit: Managing Your Headaches from Puberty to Menopause (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

Migraines are a common, controllable type of headache that affects one in every six women, more than 20 million in the United States alone. The Woman’s Migraine Toolkit helps readers take charge of...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.