Sex therapists say that an increasing number of young men in their 20s and 30s, due to performance anxiety issues, are getting psychologically addicted to Viagra, a medication for treating erectile dysfunction usually prescribed for older men.
According to AlcoholRehab, Viagra (or Sildenafil) is now one of the most widely used drugs in the world and statistics suggest that more than 20 million men have used it. It works by increasing the blood flow to the penis and makes it easier for a man to achieve erection and sustain erection on stimulation.
"More people are... becoming dependent... on the drug. This tends to happen when you have used Viagra for a long period of time and you feel unable to have a healthy sex life without it. It is... possible to become dependent on Viagra when you... are just using it for recreational [purposes]. Viagra is not physically addictive however it is the psychological addiction which can be hard for many men to overcome."
Many young men who, because of performance anxiety, use Viagra, are embarrassed by the fact and dread having their partners discover that they rely on Viagra to achieve erection. What typically follows is the development of a pattern of secret use and intensification of feelings of shame and guilt that only complicates the psychogenic erectile dysfunction they suffer.
HealthCenter.org lists the signs of dependence:
Using the drug more often and it becoming part of your day to day routine
Missing work or social events due to the effects of Viagra for example extreme fatigue
Having Viagra start to affect your relationship, both sexually and emotionally
Continuing to use Viagra even if you have extreme side effects
Using Viagra daily which can then cause you to become tolerant of the drug and you having to use stronger dosages to see any effect
Buying Viagra when you cannot afford it or getting into debt because of it
Signs of growing abuse of Viagra was reported as early as 2003. AZCentral reported that Dr. Robert Garafolo, director of youth services at the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago and an adolescent physician, said teenage boys were regularly trying to convince him to writing a prescription for Viagra. According to AZCentra, the drug intended for use by older men with erectile dysfunction problem is now widely used by "hard-partying youth" as a recreational drug.
Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, a Harvard Medical School physician and researcher in sexual dysfunction, said: "College-age students take Viagra to parties or get offered it. Guys who hear about a friend's marital or girlfriend problems will half-joke that maybe the friend needs some Viagra to 'spice things up a bit.' Viagra has left the realm of a medically prescribed drug."
The Daily Mail reports that Viagra "addiction" was implicated in the recent suicide of James Andrew, a 24-year-old writer. He committed suicide after his girlfriend stumbled on evidence that he'd been secretly using the drug. His body was found on a railway line on Valentine's Day and investigation revealed that he had quarreled with his girlfriend, an Olympic ballet dancer, Eleanor Sharpe, after she questioned him over use of Viagra.
According to the Daily Mail, most young men try Viagra for the first time for recreational use or out of curiosity and not because they have any trouble achieving and sustaining a viable erection for sex. But most first time users of Viagra are deeply impressed by the relative stability of drug-induced erection and the extra stamina it imparts. Since men generally take pride in their sexual performance, young men, especially, who are very eager to impress their partners are susceptible to developing a pattern of psychological dependence on Viagra after first time use.
Viagra, "the little blue pill"
The Daily Mail, reports the case of Daniel, an entertainment promoter who was just 20 when he first used the pill. He had never suffered erectile problem, but he was deeply impressed by the extra stamina it imparted and soon developed a dependence. He stockpiled the drug spending about £1,000 a year in spite of warnings from his doctor about the long term effects that include heart problems and hearing loss. He would restock on the drug during visits to Spain. He explained: "The doctors there will prescribe them to you on the spot. Then you go to the chemist and get a supply. There’s always English people queuing who are after the same thing."
Now, Daniel is worried about his established reliance on the drug. He takes about six tablets a week. He says: "if I know I’m due to see a woman, I discreetly take two pills beforehand... I know it’s bad for my health. I can hear my heart palpitating when I take the tablets, and I come out in cold sweats. Sometimes the beating is so loud, I think I am going to have a heart attack. I need some help to stop."
The Daily Mail reports that a Harley Street psychosexual counselor, Raymond Francis, says he sees about 15 men with an average age of about 32 a month who are dependent on Viagra for sexual performance. He says: "I think this is just a small sample of the problem. These men don’t have any physical problems that would cause erectile difficulties. Instead they feel they need it because they are putting too many expectations on themselves." He says some of his male patients are influenced by the Internet pornography. Men who are exposed to Internet pornography early in life acquire a dependence on pornographic images for sexual stimulation, experts say.
One of the more tragic consequences of a young man developing a dependence on Viagra is that it interferes with normal relationship because of the secrecy in which use of the drug is shrouded. It is easier to use Viagra secretly in circumstances of casual sex, but in stable and committed relationships, it is difficult to keep use of the drug secret. The anxiety arising from the fear of discovery complicates the picture and may interfere with the development of a normal intimate and committed relationship.
Sex experts also say that another factor in the growing use of Viagra among younger men is that 21st century ladies are more sexually confident, assertive and demanding. Since most men, especially young inexperienced men, depend on the relative inexperience and submissiveness of their partners for sexual confidence, they may feel intimidated by a self-confident and demanding young woman. Related to this are the exaggerated notions of male stamina required to satisfy a demanding female partner.
Most ladies are unaware of the extreme susceptibility of men to erectile problems under circumstances in which they perceive high expectations of performance by their partners. A sense of power and control in a sexual situation boosts a man's sexual virility. Unrealistically high demands of sexual performance from a female partner exposes the male to performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction.
The Daily Mail reports that a young man lamented: "Women are now so empowered. They feel they have as much right as men to dictate the pace sexually... Before, it was always the expectation that the man was the predator. Now ladette culture has turned that on its head. Faced with this pressure, young men bring performance fears to the bedroom long before any sex takes place."
A young woman Nicola, admitted that it was partly her sexual demands that triggered performance anxieties in her partner leading to erectile problems. She said: "When the sex wasn't great, I was honest about how frustrated I was from the outset, which made the problem worse." She added: "Women our age probably do have more of a sexual past. I’ve had 15 partners, while my partner’s only had five..."
Daniel says he is speaking up about his dependence on Viagra in spite of the secrecy and shame usually associated with use of the drug because he believes it is time for the growing problem to be openly discussed. He said "I am not ashamed of my dependence — I know so many guys my age with the same issues who started off using it recreationally."