Sexual enhancers are drugs which enhance (normal/abnormal) erectile function and aphrodisiacs which increase sexual arousal and desire.
Erectile dysfunction has been a condition affecting men since ancient times. All early attempts to treat erectile dysfunction (e.g. inflatable penis implants and vacuum pumps) failed and it was not until the early 1990s that the treatment of this condition was revolutionized with the discovery of sildenafil (Viagra). This drug was first approved in 1998 and was the first effective oral therapy to treat erectile dysfunction. Due to its popularity two other drugs were approved that work in a similar fashion as sildenafil: Tadalafil and Vardenafil. Together these drugs are referred to as phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors (PDE5i). However, as these drugs do not work as aphrodisiacs, and require sexual stimulation, a number of untested drugs have been sold on the illicit market with suggested effects on sexual behaviours. These drugs, such as Melanotan II, supposedly cause spontaneous erections as well as increase sexual desire and arousal.
While little prevalence studies exist, it appears that there is a growing interest in this type of drugs. For instance, this study found that 3% of around 12.000 men (United Kingdom, Italy and Germany) had used sexual enhancers (e.g. Viagra) in the last six months without a prescription. Some even suggest that the consumption of illicit sexual enhancers might ‘dwarf consumption’ of legitimate versions. While sexual enhancers are frequently associated with male users, it has become evident that female users are increasingly interested in this type of drugs to treat low sexual desire.
Studies also indicate that people often use these drugs to increase sexual confidence, prevent premature ejaculation, erection quality and for better sexual performance, amongst other things. Others simply use them to reverse temporary erectile dysfunction caused by, for example, alcohol or other recreational drugs.
PDE5i (Sildenafil, Tadalafil and Vardenafil) have been approved for medical use and are considered safe within their approved indications. However, a particular concern with these drugs is the use of adulterated and untested sexual enhancers bought from the illicit market. In addition, there are an increasing number of (herbal) supplements being sold as sexual enhancers products. The problem with these is that in number of cases these supplements were found contain untested analogues of sildenafil, tadalafil and vardenafil, which were not declared on the label. Finally, the harm of these untested sexual enhancers (e.g. Melanotan II) is that their effects are unknown due to limited testing on humans.
What are Sexual Performance Drugs?
Prescription sexual performance medications treat erectile dysfunction or impotence. Common FDA approved brand names include Cialis, Levitra and Viagra. These vasodilators function by dilating blood vessels, making it easier to achieve an erection. Viagra slang names include Mr. Blue, Blue Diamond, Blue Bomber and Vitamin-V.
What do Sexual Performance Drugs look like?
Sexual performance drugs are generally delivered in pill form, differing in shape, imprint and color by brand.
How are Sexual Performance Drugs abused?
Erectile dysfunction drugs are abused when they are taken in higher than recommended doses or in combination with other drugs. Drug combinations threaten proper heart function. Teenagers and adults who overindulge in alcohol, sometimes take erectile dysfunction medications to counteract alcohol’s negative effects on sexual performance. Because erectile dysfunction medications lower blood pressure, and alcohol can do the same, this may drop blood pressure to dangerous lows. Erectile dysfunction drugs should never be taken in combination with nitrates used to relieve angina symptoms. This mixture may trigger the life-threatening condition hypotension, causing abnormally low blood pressure. A stroke or heart attack can result. Young people, taking nitrates recreationally, can also fall victim to hypotension. The popular party drugs “poppers” are actually amyl nitrates. Club revelers inhale amyl nitrates in an effort to enhance sexual experiences. Taking erectile dysfunction drugs with nitrates has lead to death. Other illegal drugs known to impair the ability to achieve an erection include cocaine, methamphetamines and ecstasy. Partiers often ingest these illicit drugs in combination with erectile dysfunction drugs. Adverse changes in heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure place strain on body functions. Mixing ecstasy and Viagra together to intensify euphoria has been coined “sextasy.” This drug cocktail is also referred to as “trail mix” or “hammerheading.” Doctors worry that a serotonin syndrome interaction may occur. Excessive serotonin buildup can lead to high fever, irregular heartbeat, seizures, coma and death. Another concern is the impaired judgment produced under the influence of these drug combinations. Reports indicate a lack of safe sex practices, and increase in sex partners, when erectile dysfunction medications are taken without prescriptions or mixed with other drugs.
How do Sexual Performance Drugs affect a person?
Sexual performance drugs help maintain erections by increasing blood flow to, and relaxing the smooth muscle of, the penis. A doctor should determine the correct dose for a patient’s needs. Levitra and Viagra are taken 30 to 60 minutes before sexual activity with effects lasting from four to eight hours. Cialis works within 30 minutes from ingestion and its effects can last from eight to 36 hours. Many people falsely believe erectile dysfunction drugs to be aphrodisiacs. In reality, sexual arousal and stimulation must occur to achieve an erection with these medications.
What are the health effects/risks of using Sexual Performance Drugs?
Side effects can include nasal congestion, headaches, blurred vision, indigestion, muscle pain, sensitivity to light, color-tinged sight, flushing of the face and upset stomach. In a few rare cases, optic nerve damage or sudden hearing loss has been reported after taking sexual performance medications. A serious side effect called priapism can occur. Men suffering from priapism may experience a painful erection lasting two hours or more. If this condition persists for over four hours, permanent tissue damage may result. If erectile dysfunction medications are combined with other drugs, or used in incorrect dosages, consequences can include hypotension, heart attack, stroke or death.