Friday, August 5, 2022

“I felt like my penis was about to explode”: why younger men are turning to Viagra

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AAfter the breakup of a five-year relationship, James was nervous about dating him again. He was 27, healthy and had a good sex life. But when it came to sleeping with new people, he had “performance anxiety.” “I really struggled to get it up,” he says. “I’ve gotten to that point where I’ve had sex with a lot of people, with a failure rate of about 75 percent.” James assumed the problem was just nerves. He did not seek advice from his family doctor. Instead, he began self-medicating with sildenafil — better known as Viagra. It worked right away.

“When you take it, you can actually focus on enjoying the sex and being in the moment,” he says, “rather than thinking, ‘Oh my god, my d*** is failing. No! No! Do not stop! Keep it up!’” However, once he started dating someone else, James felt an even greater need to rely on the drug. To make sure he wasn’t a disappointment, and because he sensed they were going to have sex, James decided that – just to be safe – he would “double drop” two 100mg max strength pills. However, his new partner wasn’t in the mood and fell asleep next to him.

“I felt like my penis was about to explode,” says James. “I was incredibly weak.” He remembers the blood capillaries on the surface of his eyes becoming sharp as he stared into the darkness. He felt deeply uncomfortable. “I had to pee,” he says, “so I peed from about two or ten feet away to end up in the toilet.”

Now in his thirties, James still takes Viagra regularly. He never told his partner what he had done. And he’s not alone in that. He estimates that up to half of his male friends have told him they take Viagra, and he suspects even more are doing so in secret. Some, like Josh, 27, admit they take it mainly as a recreational drug to enhance the sexual experience – “I tried it and it was like I was 14 again.” The pill is usually associated with older men brought. But more and more men under 50 are taking sildenafil.

Possible side effects include a reduction in effectiveness over time, as well as more serious consequences. “Long-term use of Viagra can potentially increase the risk of psychological dependence and has also been linked to various problems affecting the hearing, visual and vision systems,” says Dr. Shirin Lakhani, a doctor who offers specialized treatments for erectile dysfunction at her London private clinic. “Short-term serious side effects are, in very rare cases, strokes and heart attacks as well as diarrhea and gastritis.”

numbers released LatestPageNews by pharmaceutical company Viatris show that Viagra Connect sold more than seven million tablets in the UK between May 2020 and May 2021. According to Viatris, more than 60 percent of UK users are between the ages of 25 and 54.

The drug is far more accessible than it used to be thanks to a relaxation of controls around its sale. Viagra Connect is an over-the-counter form available without a prescription; It was released in 2018. It’s become so popular that last month Boots announced the launch of its own generic version that will be priced cheaper than the big brands. Generic sildenafil can also be bought online with a prescription, which is relatively easy to obtain after a short consultation. “Of our erectile dysfunction clients, nine percent are in their 20s and 21 percent are in their 30s,” says Abbas Kanani, an online pharmacist.

That adds up to a lot of young users. And although erectile dysfunction in young men is still a rather taboo topic, it seems to be very common. According to a 2018 study, around half of British men in their 30s report difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. However, like James, young men with erectile dysfunction do not necessarily discuss it with their doctor. “In my role as NHS GP, I almost never see men in their 20s and 30s with erectile dysfunction,” says Dr. Luke Pratsides, who also works for a men’s health commercial website. “This is likely because young men do not have access to traditional health care channels and may not want multiple touchpoints to discuss sexual function, which can be difficult for many to talk about.”

By bypassing their doctor, men miss out on a proper diagnosis. James has never asked his doctor about the underlying cause of his erectile dysfunction – but he suspects he suffers from performance anxiety. This is broadly defined as men who don’t necessarily have a problem every time they have sex or every time they masturbate, but who – like James – find comfort in knowing that the pill will help them if they get caught up in a boner murder spiral of negativity. “If it was my first time sleeping with someone, I’d get restless, so I’ll take it,” says James. “But over time, I get more comfortable around her – and then I don’t need her 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 is detrimental to erections. It goes against the feeling of being relaxed and sexual,” he explains. The problem is often compounded by the excitement of having sex with someone for the first time. “The body also interprets excitement as close to fear because you’re getting to know a new person.”

“At a certain point,” notes Saddington, even sildenafil stops working. “Viagra doesn’t give you an erection; it facilitates the natural process, so if you become increasingly anxious, eventually your anxiety can override the effects of sildenafil.”

James says he’s always concerned about his sexual performance – but especially with a new partner – and recalls the first time he heard some of his girlfriends talk about sex. “What’s painful to me is that women in their thirties obsess and revel in the details of male anatomy,” says James. “It’s like girth, length, movement. Everything is literally trawled through in front of her friends – and with such relish. After seeing this – at a table with people I’ve actually slept with – I realize how much pressure there is to deliver good sex.

It’s unclear how James’ sexual partners feel about this because, for the most part, he doesn’t tell them. But Wendy, 37, says she would be unhappy if she found out her boyfriend was secretly taking Viagra. “Because I would feel, oh, am I not enough?” She says. “But then I understand [erectile dysfunction] is more common as men get older.” The only time she knows of has had sex with a man who was taking sildenafil: a one-night stand, where she found out about it afterwards from a mutual friend. The sex was average, a fact Wendy partly attributes to the drug. “There was something slightly fake there. It wasn’t connected, passionate sex, which I guess I was having with someone who wasn’t there.”

Viatris, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer that makes Viagra, provided some data LatestPageNews from a survey of 5,007 people — including 2,445 men — they commissioned in 2020. One of the questions they asked was, “What are the top three obstacles preventing you from being more intimate?”. Nine percent of 18 to 24 year olds and 10 percent of 25 to 34 year olds named “sexual problems, e.g. B. Difficulty getting or keeping an erection” as the main reason. Of all men who experienced erectile dysfunction, nearly a third (29 percent) said it was because they were “concerned about not being able to get or maintain an erection.”

However, the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction can be more complex. “Erectile dysfunction in younger men is often dismissed as psychological/stress-related and transient and self-limiting,” says Dr. Lakhani. “Although psychological reasons can play a role, it’s important to realize that there can be medical issues that cause ED in younger men, too. Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety affect erectile function either directly or as a side effect of the medications used to treat them.” Lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking and obesity may also play a role, says Dr. Lakhani, as well as cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

Stage fright is often present with erectile dysfunction, she notes — but that doesn’t mean it’s the cause. dr Lakhani suggests that the incidence of erectile dysfunction “could be far higher than reported due to the stigma and shame associated with sexual health issues.” It is important to get a proper diagnosis for the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction.

*Names have been changed

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