Little blue pill, risky business?

It’s no secret that Viagra (sildenafil citrate) treats erectile dysfunction (ED) effectively by improving blood flow to the penis.  

But now that the “little blue pill” is more accessible, some people with a penis might use it recreationally  meaning without a prescription. Some may take it socially with other drugs, rather than for treatment of a medical condition.  

A study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior says that recreational ED drug use is associated with an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections and higher rates of illegal drug use. 

The side effects of sildenafil citrate, even with a prescription, can be intense 

  • Headaches 

  • Upset stomach 

  • Blue-tinted vision 

  • Flushing 

  • Diarrhea 

  • Difficulty sleeping  

  • Dizziness 

For example, if someone takes sildenafil citrate after a night of drinking, they can experience migraines and increased facial flushing. Since alcohol decreases blood flow to the penis, it limits the drug's effectiveness (i.e. an erection's rigidity). 

Can ED pills cause ED? 

The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that men who take ED medications recreationally report lower sexual satisfaction than nonusers. The more frequently men used ED medications recreationally, the less confident they were in their sexual abilities.  

Recreational ED drug use can even cause psychogenic erectile dysfunction. In psychogenic erectile dysfunction, psychological issues prevent maintaining or getting an erection  nothing physical.  

Taking ED medication with other drugs like cocaine 

Mixing ED drugs with hard drugs is inherently dangerous. For example, cocaine constricts blood vessels, and sildenafil citrate does the opposite. It can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke or priapism (an erection that lasts more than four hours and requires urgent medical attention to reverse). 

Expired, fake and contaminated pills 

Another problem is how people are getting the drug. If you don't have a prescription, the drug itself  not just how you use it  may be a problem.   

Getting drugs from a friend or other sources is a recipe for expired, fake or contaminated pills. Online pharmacies don't always hold up to scrutiny, either. Often, they sell drugs with missing active ingredients or in smaller amounts. 

The bottom line: It's safe to take as prescribed. The danger comes from taking it with other drugs or getting it from someone without a medical license. 

If you are concerned you have ED and would like to talk to a medical professional about your options, we can help. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment with a reproductive health care provider.