‘I was really struggling to get over it’: Why young men are turning to Viagra

After the breakup of a five-year relationship, James was nervous about dating again. He was 27 years old, healthy, and had a good sex life. But he was experiencing “performance anxiety” when it came to sleeping with new people.

I was really struggling to get through it,” he says. “I got to the point where I was having sex with a lot of people with a 75 percent error rate.” James assumed that the problem was just nerves. He did not consult his GP. Instead, he began self-medicating with sildenafil—better known as Viagra. It worked immediately.

“When you take it off, you can really focus on enjoying sex and being in the moment,” he says, “as opposed to thinking, ‘Oh my god, my d*** is failing. No! No! Don’t wait! Let’s go!'”

When she began dating someone new, however, James felt an even greater need to rely on the drug. To make sure he wasn’t disappointed, and realizing they were about to have sex, James decided that – just to be sure – he would “double drop” two max strength 100mg pills. His new partner, however, was not in the mood, and slept next to him.

“I felt like my penis was about to explode,” James says. “I was incredibly unconscious.” He remembers the blood capillaries on the surface of his eyes when he was staring into the dark. He was deeply uncomfortable. “I needed to pee,” he says, “and so I was probably peeing from about two or three meters away to get down the toilet.”

Now in his thirties, James still takes Viagra regularly. He never told his partner what he had done. And at that point, he’s not alone. He estimates that more than half of his male friends have told him they take Viagra, and he suspects that even more do so secretly.

Some, like 27-year-old Josh, admit to taking it primarily as a recreational drug to enhance the sexual experience – “I tried it and it was like I was 14 again.” The pill is commonly associated with older men. But an increasing number of men under 50 are now taking sildenafil as well.

Potential side effects include a decrease in efficacy over time, as well as more serious consequences. “Prolonged use of Viagra can potentially increase the risk of psychological dependence and is also associated with a variety of problems affecting the auditory and visual systems and vision,” says Dr Shireen Lakhani, who specializes in her personal life in London. Provides erectile dysfunction treatment. Clinic.

“Short-term serious side effects include stroke and heart attacks, as well as diarrhea and gastritis in very rare cases.”

figures released to independent Viagra Connect sold more than seven million tablets in the UK between May 2020 and May 2021, according to pharmaceutical company Viatris. According to the company, more than 60 percent of UK users are between 25 and 54 years old.

This drug is more accessible than ever before due to relaxation in control. Viagra Connect, released in 2018, is an over-the-counter form that can be obtained without a prescription.

It’s become so popular that last month Boots announced the launch of its own generic version, which will cost more affordable than the big-name brand. Generic sildenafil can also be purchased online with a prescription, which can be obtained relatively easily by answering a short consultation.

“Of our erectile dysfunction custom base, 9 percent are in their twenties and 21 percent are in their thirties,” says Abbas Kanani, an online pharmacist.

This adds up to a lot of young users. And although erectile dysfunction is still a topic that is somewhat taboo among young men, it seems to be very common. According to a 2018 study, almost half of British men in their thirties report difficulties achieving or maintaining an erection.

However, like James, young people with erectile dysfunction do not feel it necessary to talk to their doctor about it.

“In my role as an NHS GP, I see almost no men in their twenties and thirties with erectile dysfunction,” says Dr Luke Pratsides, who also works for an occupational men’s health website.

“This is because young men do not have access to traditional channels of health care and may not want many touchpoints to discuss sexual function, which can be difficult for many to talk about.”

By bypassing their doctor, men are missing out on a proper diagnosis. James never asked his doctor about the underlying cause of his erectile dysfunction—but he suspects he may be experiencing some level of performance anxiety. It is broadly defined as men who don’t have a problem every time they have sex or masturbate, but who – like James – find comfort in knowing that the pill will help them if they have a The spiral of negativity stops in bone-killing.

“If I was going to sleep with someone for the first time, I would get anxious, so I take it,” James says. “But over time I get more comfortable around them — and then I don’t really need to.”

According to Peter Saddington, a sex therapist working in the Department of Andrology at Sheffield Royal Hallamshire Hospital, performance anxiety is a common but less discussed cause of erectile dysfunction.

“Anxiety releases a chemical in the brain that has an adverse effect on erections. It goes against feeling relaxed and sexual,” he explains. The problem is often exacerbated by the excitement of having sex with someone for the first time. meeting in person.”

“At a certain point,” notes Sadington, even sildenafil will stop working. “Viagra does not give you an erection; This facilitates the natural process, so if you’re becoming more and more anxious, eventually your anxiety can overwhelm the effects of sildenafil.”

James says he always felt anxious about his sexual performance – but especially with a new partner – and remembers the first time he heard some of his female friends talk about sex. .

“What is painfully clear to me is that women in their thirties obsess and take pleasure in the subtleties of male anatomy,” says James. “It’s like circumference, length, speed. Everything is completely over – and with great pleasure – in front of my friends. So after seeing that – at a table with the people I’m with I’ve actually slept – I know the pressure it takes to deliver good sex.”

It’s unclear how James’ sexual partners feel about it, because for the most part, he doesn’t tell them.

But Wendy, 37, says she would be sad to learn that her boyfriend was secretly taking Viagra. “Because I’ll feel like, oh, am I not good enough?” she says. “But then I get that [erectile dysfunction] As people get older, it’s more common.”

To her knowledge, she has had sex with a person taking sildenafil only once: a one-night stand, in which she later found out from a mutual friend. Sex was average, a fact Wendy partly chalks up to medicine. “There was something fake about it. It wasn’t the connected, passionate sex that I think I’ve had with someone who’s not into it.”

Viatris, a subsidiary of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer that makes Viagra, provided some data. independent From a survey of 5,007 people – including 2,445 men – they commissioned in 2020.

One of the questions he asked was “What are the top three barriers preventing you from being more intimate?”. Nine percent of 18 to 24 year olds and 10 percent of 25 to 34 year olds identified “sexual issues, such as struggle to get or maintain an erection” as the top reason.

Nearly a third (29 percent) of all men who experienced erectile dysfunction said it was because they were “worried about not being able to get or maintain an erection”.

However, the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction can be more complex. “Erectile dysfunction is often dismissed as psychological” [or] Stress-related and temporary and self-limiting in young men,” says Dr Lakhani. “However, while psychological causes may play a role, it is important to realize that medical conditions can also cause ED in young men.

Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety affect erectile function either directly or as a side effect of the drugs used to treat them. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, drinking, and obesity, can also play a role, says Lakhani, as can heart disease or diabetes.

Performance anxiety is often present in erectile dysfunction, she notes — but that doesn’t mean it’s the cause. Lakhani suspects that the incidence of erectile dysfunction may be “far higher than has been reported because of stigma and shame around sexual health problems”. It is important to get a proper diagnosis for the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction.

*Names have been changed