Why Viagra use has grown in men under 30: Little blue pills are becoming readily available on the internet - with 20% of men in their 20s suffering from erectile dysfunction
- Use of Viagra in America is increasing among younger age groups as many seek help for mild ED and 'performance anxiety'
- Online pharmacies like Hims, Roman and Lemonaid have allowed for easy access to the drug
- While this does remove some of a red tape and potential embarrassment to receiving ED meds, some fear the drugs are being distributed too 'casually'
- The drug is totally safe, but can cause some permanent damage to the penis if misused or overused
Viagra is more widely available in America than ever, and with the rise of telehealth platforms that allow a man to easily and discretely receive a prescription for the little blue pill online - younger men are also using the drug more than ever.
The drug, which has been manufactured by pharma-giant Pfizer since it first hit the market in 1998, was initially for older men dealing with erectile dysfunction. It's use among young men has grown in recent years as well, though, as rates of mild to moderate erectile dysfunction have reached up to 20 percent among men in their 20s and 30 percent among those in their 30s, according to City Care Family Practice.
Younger men may feel reservations about approaching their doctor about the issue, though. This has led to the rise of companies like Hims, Lemonaid and Roman, which allow a person to quickly get a prescription for the drug after an online consultation.
While the drug has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and deemed ok for proper use by regulators it - like all drugs - can be dangerous if misused. It can cause a priapism, where a person has a erection that lasts for hours and causes permanent damage to the penis. It also has a few dangerous interactions with drugs for high cholesterol.
Here is everything you need to know about the drug:
The 'little blue pill' is growing in popularity in the U.S., especially among younger people for which the drug was not designed for. Up to one-in-five American men in their 20s suffer from mild or moderate erectile dysfunction (file photo)
The drug was approved in the US and EU in 1998, branded as Viagra, and became one of the fastest selling drugs of all time
WHAT IS IT?
Most men occasionally struggle to get or keep an erection due to stress, tiredness, anxiety or drinking too much alcohol.
The National Institutes of Health reports that around 30 million men have erectile dysfunction, with it being most common among the elderly. It can be caused by high blood pressure or cholesterol, hormone problems or side effects from medication.
Some younger men also suffer from 'performance anxiety', where mental distractions and other issues have give them trouble getting or maintaining an erection.
Medicines containing sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, are often used to treat the condition. It expands blood vessels and boosts blood flow to the genitals.
Viagra was originally developed by Covid vaccine manufacturer Pfizer in 1989, with hopes that sildenafil citrate could treat high blood pressure.
But clinical trials in Wales a few years later saw men report an unusual side effect —they got more erections while taking the medication.
The drug was approved in the US and EU in 1998, branded as Viagra, and became one of the fastest selling drugs of all time.
Hims, Roman and Lemonaid are among a spate of companies that has risen in recent years to allow for easier access to ED drugs
WHERE CAN YOU GET IT?
The drug is available in the U.S. via prescription. Usually, a script will be written by a man's primary care physician that they can then fill at a pharmacy.
Online pharmacies and telehealth providers have allowed many to circumvent part of the process, though. Men can get prescription Viagra, or competitors like Cialis and Stendra from online providers.
These include Hims, Lemonaid and Roman among others. While the companies are operating totally legally, some are asking for more regulation.
Firms like Hims allow for a person to access the prescription drugs easily, with physicians often willing to write a prescription after a quick online consultation.
'These are lifestyle drugs, and they have potentially serious adverse effects, and this seems like too casual a way to be obtaining them,' Dr Adriane Fugh-Berman, a pharmacology professor at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. told the Associated Press in 2019.
The UK's National Health System (NHS) also warns against obtaining the drugs through online pharmacies.
'[Online medicines] are not always regulated and the ingredients in them can vary from one pack to another. They can cause unpleasant side effects or may not be suitable for you,' the agency writes.
'It's best to see your doctor before buying medicines online. They know your medical history and can discuss whether you might benefit from treatment.'
Viagra was originally cooked up by Covid vaccine manufacturer Pfizer in 1989, with hopes that sildenafil citrate could treat high blood pressure
WHO CAN USE IT?
Most men over 18 may take the drug to treat erectile dysfunction, but adults and children (one year old and over) may also take the drug for pulmonary hypertension.
However, experts advise that it is not suitable for everyone, including individuals with serious heart or liver problems, recent stroke or heart attack victims and people with low blood pressure.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS?
Common side effects may include headaches, hot flushes, nausea, indigestion, dizziness and a stuffy nose.
More serious possible side effects are painful erections (especially if they last for more than two hours), seizures and chest pain.
An allergic reaction is also possible, alongside any listed in the leaflet which comes with your medicine.
The rise and rise of Viagra
Pharmaceutical company Pfizer cooks up a compound called sildenafil citrate which it hopes will treat high blood pressure.
When it is trialled in Wales, one tester mentions that he got more erections while on it. The others say, ‘So did we!’ It’s a breakthrough moment.
The drug – now branded Viagra – is approved in the US as the first pharmaceutical product ever for erectile dysfunction. It quickly becomes one of the fastest-selling drugs of all time, with 10,000 prescriptions being issued a day.
Viagra gets its European licence. From July 1999, the NHS starts prescribing Viagra to men with underlying conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or prostate cancer – but Viagra is more widely available by private prescription or from foreign suppliers on the internet.
In Sex and the City, man-eater Samantha dates a wealthy older man who pops the blue pills. Viagra later stars in Ally McBeal and Law & Order.
The UK’s first ‘Viagra divorce’ is granted when a middle-aged woman claims the drug made her husband ‘sexually aggressive’.
In England, 1,838,687 prescription items for erectile dysfunction are dispensed.
Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas
Michael Douglas says he’s glad his wife likes older men and praises the drug: ‘Some wonderful enhancements have happened in the last few years – Viagra, Cialis – that can make us all feel younger.’ It also gets its own movie: Love & Other Drugs with Jake Gyllenhaal playing a Viagra salesman.
Michael Douglas praises Viagra for ‘making us all feel younger’. ‘God bless her that she likes older guys,’ he says of his wife, the actress Catherine Zeta Jones. ‘And some wonderful enhancements have happened in the last few years - Viagra, Cialis – that can make us all feel younger.’
Viagra’s European patent expires, so with the unbranded drug sildenafil available at a 93 per cent price drop, the NHS allows prescriptions for a wider range of cases of male impotence.
The number of prescription items dispensed for erectile dysfunction has risen to 4,223,282.
Viagra becomes legally available to men over 18 via pharmacy websites and over the counter as Viagra Connect.
Online health company Zava admits to stockpiling one million Viagra pills in case Brexit disrupts medical supplies.
WHY ARE MORE MEN RESORTING TO VIAGRA?
Many of the new generation of teenage and young adult Viagra users are otherwise physically fit, who use it as a prop to ensure sexual performance.
However in recent years doctors are warning that others may be suffering sexual difficulties and impotence caused by obesity and obesity-related type 2 diabetes.
This is a problem previously seen only in much older patients, and it's causing concern, Ian Eardley, a professor of urology at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, in the UK, told the Daily Mail in 2020.
However, there are multiple reasons why young men may be affected by problems in the bedroom, including the rising use of pornography, binge drinking and drug- taking, as these mean they need more stimulation to make anything happen.
Doctors are now increasingly aware that erectile dysfunction (ED) might be a sign of underlying disease — and fear that young men may be self-prescribing Viagra. As a result, the real cause of their issues remains untreated, despite it being treatable.
'There's no doubt that type 2 diabetes causes it and a 30-year-old diabetic is at least twice or three times as likely as a non-diabetic to suffer from erectile dysfunction,' Professor Eardley said.
Elsewhere this April, Canadian experts found regularly taking the common erectile dysfunction pill Viagra may raise the risk of three serious eye conditions.
Three other impotence medicines - Cialis, Levitra and Spedra - were also named as being potential triggers of eye problems.
They found the medications may cause sudden losses of vision, flashes of light and dark spots or 'floaters' in those who take them.
Increasing blood flow to the genitals with the pills could be hindering its supply to the eyes, which the experts suggested may be to blame.
Lead researcher Dr Mahyar Etminan, an ophthalmologist at the University of British Columbia, said people using the drugs who develop vision problems should 'seek medical attention'.
WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF YOU TOOK TOO MUCH?
Viagra has a range of different side effects which range in severity. According to Medical Daily, too much of the drug may result in a painful, 'uncomfortably and disproportionately large erection' called a priapism which could go on for hours.
According to the NHS site, if not treated promptly, this could cause permanent damage to the penis.
It recommends seeking medical help if the erection lasts more than two hours. At the hospital, the patient could be treated with 'tablets or injections directly into your penis' or blood could be drained from the area via a needle or surgery.
Guidance also says that a priapism 'may get better on its own within two hours' and suggests there are things you can do to try and reduce the erection.
Going for a pee, having a warm bath or shower, drinking lots of water, going for a gentle walk, doing some exercises or taking painkillers such as paracetamol (if needed) are recommended.
The NHS site says you should NOT apply ice packs or cold water to the area, have sex or masturbate, drink alcohol or smoke.
BUT THERE CAN BE POSITIVE SIDE EFFECTS
Taking Viagra could cut the risk of developing Alzheimer's, scientists say.
Researchers at the Cleveland Clinic in the US examined the medical data of 7million Americans in their 70s, tracking them for six years.
Results showed adults who took sildenafil, the main ingredient in the little blue pill, were 69 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer's compared to people who didn't use the medication.
Sildenafil, also used to treat high blood pressure, appeared to perform better than two drugs currently being used in human trials against Alzheimer's.
Lead researcher Dr Feixiong Cheng admitted clinical trials are needed to confirm whether the impotence drug can truly ward off the disease.
But separate laboratory projects showed it can increase brain cell growth and stop harmful proteins building up in the brain.
HOW LONG DOES VIAGRA LAST FOR?
According to Healthline, Viagra on average lasts between two to three hours, depending on several factors including dosage, age, and overall health.
It can last for up to five hours, and a person may be able to get an erection more than once during this period.
HOW OFTEN CAN YOU TAKE VIAGRA?
Those taking sildenafil for erectile dysfunction may be able to get tablets in different doses ranging from 25 - 100mg.
According to the NHS, the usual dose is 50mg - when you need it - no more than once a day.
The site says to take it up to four hours before having sex. The dosage information for Pfizer's Viagra says: 'For most patients, the recommended dose is 50 mg taken, as needed, approximately 1 hour before sexual activity.
'However, VIAGRA may be taken anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours before sexual activity...
'Based on effectiveness and toleration, may increase to a maximum of 100 mg or decrease to 25 mg...
'Maximum recommended dosing frequency is once per day.'