Original Research Article| Volume 110, P16-20, June 2022

Preliminary side effect profile, safety, and tolerability of hormonal contraception among women receiving opioid-agonist therapy



      To characterize for the first time the side effect profile, safety, and tolerability of hormonal contraception among women receiving opioid-agonist therapy.

      Study Design

      We conducted a secondary analysis of data collected from participants in a three-arm randomized controlled trial (N = 138) aimed at increasing effective contraceptive use among women receiving opioid-agonist therapy. Participants in the 2 intervention conditions (n = 90) had free access to hormonal contraception at each of the 14 visits scheduled during the 6-month intervention. Contraceptive use and side effects were recorded at each visit; participants could change methods or discontinue use at any time. Verbatim side effects were classified using Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA) terminology.


      Of 67 participants reporting hormonal contraceptive use, 29 (43%) initiated implants, 14 (21%) intrauterine devices, 13 (19%) combined pills, 11 (16%) progestin-only pills, 10 (15%) injectables, 1 (2%) ring, and 1 (2%) patch; the average (±standard deviation) duration of use was 129 ± 55, 129 ± 60, 108 ± 62, 102 ± 61, 111 ± 31, 145, and 18 days, respectively. A total of 321 side effects were reported by 55 (82%) participants. Fifty (75%) participants reported menstrual cycle changes/uterine bleeding, followed by headaches (16, 24%), weight gain (15, 22%), and abdominal pain or nausea/vomiting (11, 16%). No serious side effects were reported. Twelve participants (18%) changed methods and 13 (19%) discontinued all hormonal contraceptive use.


      The hormonal contraceptive side effects reported by this small group of women receiving opioid-agonist therapy appear consistent with those reported by the general population, was generally well-tolerated, and did not raise safety concerns.


      These results provide important preliminary evidence that hormonal contraceptive use produces a familiar side effect profile and is well-tolerated by women receiving opioid-agonist therapy, although studies with larger samples followed over longer periods of time with appropriate comparison conditions are needed to fully assess tolerability and safety.


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