Gynecomastia has several causes, including being overweight or obese, having a hormone imbalance, and taking certain street drugs and prescription drugs.
Let’s take a look at the illegal or street drugs that can contribute to gynecomastia condition:
- Heroin is a morphine diacetate commonly known on the streets as the H, smack, tar, and other names. It is an opioid analgesic containing the molecule morphine, found naturally in the opium poppy. Administered by injection, it is two to three times more powerful than morphine and the onset of its action is much quicker. Available also in powder form, it is able to be snorted or smoked.
- ‘Substituted’ amphetamines are a class of chemical stimulants including meth-amphetamine, ephedrine, MDMA (ecstacy) and cathinone. The amphetamine derivatives are naturally occurring. This type of amphetamine has been used for thousands of years for its pharmacological effects.
- Cannabis or marijuana is known by a multitude of names. By and large, the psychoactive compound in marinuana is the THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, but this is only one of over 400 known compounds in the plant. It is often consumed for its mental and physical side effects including enhancement of the mood, relaxation, and for cancer patients, increased appetite.
There are also prescription drugs that can increase the likelihood of developing gynecomastia.
These include Anti-ulcer drugs such as:
- Cimetidine – a histamine antagonist that inhibits the acid production in the stomach, used in the treatment of chronic heartburn and peptic ulcers. Cimetidine has many side effects because of its properties, gynecomastia being one of the less serious yet more concerning for men.
- Omeprazole – a proton pump inhibitor, it is used to treat dyspepsia, peptic ulcer, reflux disease, now called Barrett’s disease, as well as a few other diseases. Omeprazole is one of the most widely distributed drugs in the world and is available in some countries by over the counter as well as prescription. There are many adverse effects of this drug including a heightened risk of developing cancer, as well as gynecomastia.
- Metronidazole – marketed under the name of Flagyl is an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections. It is the first go-to drug for colitis. Metronidazole affects the delicate balance of hormones in the body, which is why it is linked to gynecomastia.
Besides the specific drugs known to cause gynecomastia, there are types of drugs that are also known to contribute to this condition.
- Anti-androgens which are used to treat prostate enlargement, prostate cancer and some other conditions. Examples of these types of drugs include flutamide, finasteride (Proscar, Propecia) and the lesser known drug spironolactone (Aldactone).
- Anabolic steroids and androgens play a major role in damaging the hormonal balance in the male body. These can be expressly harmful, in that the risks of developing gynecomastia increase rapidly after one stops taking these drugs.
- AIDS medications. Gynecomastia can begin to develop in HIV-positive men who are receiving a treatment routine called ‘highly active’ antiretroviral therapy or for short, (HAART).
Efavirenz (Sustiva) is now more commonly linked with gynecomastia than are some of the other HIV medications and is more popularly taken for it.
- Anti-anxiety medications, in this case, a drug called diazepam (Valium).
- Tricyclic anti-depressants which not only contribute to the onset of gynecomastia, but have many additional side effects..
- Antibiotics. Ulcer medications, not only cimetidine (Tagamet).
- Cancer treatment plans such as chemotherapy.
- Heart medications, such as the drug commonly called digoxin (Lanoxin) and the damaging calcium channel blockers.
Drugs can be beneficial to the human body, when they are prescribed under care, concern, and when the benefit of the patient is in context. Even under this context, they can be scary to take and can have side effects that are often unpredictable. Illegal street drugs are in a league all of their own.
Because they are often cut in a different strength from one purchase to the next, it is virtually impossible to tell what they will do to the body. They can often cause death immediately upon taking them.
Because prescription drugs are manufactured in a laboratory, there is no telling what kind of side effects they will have upon taking them.
The main danger from prescription medicine is the short time-frame that they are studied for safety before being called ‘safe’ by the FDA and labeled for sale.
Those effects are just now becoming apparent as the years tick by and young adults who have taken these drugs for most of their lives are displaying emotional and psychological problems.
This is true of many drugs that are supposedly safe for human beings to take. There has simply not been enough time in study to guess what they will do to those who take them.
Gynecomastia is one such side effect. It does not always make its presence known right away. Often it can emerge years after the drug was taken.
This is one reason it is essential for a male with gynecomastia to have an extensive history worked up before a treatment plan is implemented. If there is prescription drug use in his past, the doctor will need to know about it so that the treatment plan can target the effects of the drugs.
What kinds of drugs cause gynecomastia?
The short answer is, many kinds, illegal and legal. But the long answer is, gynecomastia is not the only adverse effect of taking drugs.
They come with a long, long list of effects, regardless of whether or not they are labeled as safe. It is apparent that what safe means to some, is not equivalent to what it means to others.