Viagra: More men in their twenties and thirties are taking viagra, but why?

DAfter ending a five-year relationship, James was nervous about dating again. He was 27 years old, in good health and had a good sex life. But when it came to having sex with new people, she suffered from “performance anxiety”. “I was really struggling to get an erection,” he says. “I got to a point where I was having sex with lots of people with a 75% failure rate.” James assumed the problem was just nerves. He did not seek the advice of his GP. Instead, he began self-medicating with Sildenafil, better known as Viagra. It worked instantly.

“When you take it, you can focus on the pleasure of sex and be in the moment,” he explains, “instead of thinking, ‘Oh my God, my penis is failing. No! No! Don’t stop! You keep going!'” However, when he started dating someone new, James felt an even greater need to rely on medication. Wanting to make sure it wasn’t a letdown and feeling like he was about to have sex, James decided that, just to be sure, he would take two full strength 100mg pills. However, his companion was in no mood and fell asleep next to him.

“I felt like my penis was about to explode,” says James. “I felt incredibly weak.” He remembers the blood capillaries on the surface of his eyes coming into focus as he stared into the darkness. He felt deeply uncomfortable. “I needed to pee,” he says, “so I probably peed six or three feet away so it fell into the toilet.”

Now in his thirties, James still takes Viagra regularly. He never told his partner what he had done. And in this regard, he is not alone. She estimates that up to half of her male friends have told her they take Viagra, and she suspects there are others who do so in secret. Some, like Josh, 27, admit they take it primarily as a recreational drug to enhance the sexual experience: “I tried it and it felt like I was 14 again. The pill is usually associated with older men. But a growing number of men under 50 are also taking sildenafil.

Possible side effects include reduced effectiveness over time, as well as more serious results. “Long-term use of Viagra can potentially increase the risk of psychological dependence and has also been linked to various problems affecting the auditory and visual systems,” says Dr. Shirin Lakhani, a physician who offers specialist treatments for erectile dysfunction. in his private practice. practice in London. “Serious short-term side effects include strokes and heart attacks in very rare cases, as well as diarrhea and gastritis.”

The figures communicated to The Independent by the pharmaceutical company Viatris show that between May 2020 and May 2021 Viagra Connect sold more than seven million tablets in the UK. According to the company, over 60% of UK users are between the ages of 25 and 54.

The drug is much more accessible than before thanks to a relaxation of controls. Viagra Connect, launched in 2018, is an over-the-counter version that can be obtained without a prescription. It has become so popular that last month Boots announced the launch of its own generic version, which will be priced cheaper than the big brand. Generic sildenafil can also be purchased online with a prescription, which can be obtained relatively easily by answering a short consultation. “Of our clientele suffering from erectile dysfunction, 9% are in their 20s and 21% are in their 30s,” explains Abbas Kanani, an online pharmacist.

This represents a large number of young users. And while erectile dysfunction remains a somewhat taboo subject among young men, it seems to be very common. According a 2018 studyAround half of British men in their 30s report having difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. Like James, however, young men with erectile dysfunction don’t necessarily tell their doctor. “In my role as a GP in the NHS (UK National Health Service), I hardly see any men in their 20s or 30s with erectile dysfunction,” says Dr Luke Pratsides, who also works for an advertising website on men’s health. “It’s likely because young men don’t have access to traditional healthcare channels and may not want to have multiple points of contact to discuss sexual function, which for many can be a difficult topic to discuss. .”

By avoiding their doctor, men miss a correct diagnosis. James has never asked his doctor about the underlying cause of his erectile dysfunction, but suspects he suffers from some level of performance anxiety. This is broadly defined as men who don’t necessarily have a problem every time they have sex or masturbate, but who, like James, take comfort in knowing that the pill will help them if they are caught in a spiral of negativity that nullifies erections. “If I were to have sex with someone for the first time, I would get anxious, so I would take it,” James says. “But over time, I feel more comfortable with the person, and after that, I don’t need it anymore.”

Performance anxiety is a common but little-discussed cause of erectile dysfunction, according to Peter Saddington, a sex therapist who works in the andrology department at Sheffield Royal Hallamshire Hospital. “Anxiety releases a chemical in the brain that has a detrimental effect on erections. This works against feeling relaxed and sexual,” he explains. The problem is often compounded by arousal. having sex with someone for the first time. “The body interprets the emotion as something close to anxiety, because you are meeting a new person.”

“At some point,” Saddington notes, even sildenafil will stop working. “Viagra doesn’t give you an erection, it just facilitates the natural process, so if the person becomes increasingly anxious, their anxiety can possibly negate the effect of sildenafil.”

James says he still feels anxious about his sexual performance, but even more so with a new partner, and remembers the first time he heard some of his girlfriends talking about sex. “What’s painfully obvious to me is that women in their thirties are obsessed with and revel in the details of male anatomy,” James says. “They look at the girth, the length, the movement. They discuss everything, and with great pleasure, in front of their friends. So having witnessed it – at a table with people I’ve had sex with – I’m aware of the pressure to have good sex.

“Hubo algo ligeramente falso al respecto. No fue el sexo apasionado en sintonía que supongo que he tenido con alguien que no lo consume”

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“There was something slightly off about that. It wasn’t the passionate sex I’ve had with someone who doesn’t use it.”

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It’s unclear what James’s sexual partners think about it because, for the most part, he doesn’t tell them. But Wendy, 37, says she would be upset to find out her boyfriend is secretly taking Viagra. “Because I would feel like, ah, am I not enough?” She says. “But then I understand that [la disfunción eréctil] it is more common as men age. To her knowledge, she has had only one sexual relationship with a man taking sildenafil: a one-night stand, only to find out later through a mutual friend. The sex was average, a fact Wendy attributes in part to the drugs. “There was something slightly off about that. It wasn’t the passionate sex I’ve had with someone who doesn’t use it.”

Viatris, subsidiary of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer what makes Viagra, provided data to The Independent from a survey of 5,007 people, including 2,445 men, who ordered in 2020. One of the questions they asked was “What are the top three barriers that keep you from being more intimate? Nine percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 10 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds cited “sexual problems, for example, having trouble getting or keeping an erection” as the main reason. Of all men who have suffered from erectile dysfunction, almost a third (29%) said it was because they were “worried about not being able to get or keep an erection”.

However, the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction can be more complex. “Erectile dysfunction is often dismissed as psychological [o] stress-related and temporary and self-limiting in younger men,” says Dr. Lakhani. “However, although psychological reasons may play a role, it is important to realize that there may also be medical conditions that cause erectile dysfunction in younger men. Mental Health, like depression and anxiety, affect erectile function, either directly or as a side effect of the drugs used to treat them. According to Dr. Lakhani, lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol and obesity can also play a role, as can cardiovascular disease or obesity. Diabetes.

Performance anxiety is often present in erectile dysfunction, he notes, but that doesn’t mean it’s the cause. Dr Lakhani suspects that the incidence of erectile dysfunction could be “much higher than reported due to the stigma and shame surrounding sexual health issues”. It is important to get a correct diagnosis of the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction.

*Names have been changed

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