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The Dangers of Abusing ED Drugs

9 min read
The Dangers of Abusing ED Drugs

Since its introduction in 1998, erectile dysfunction medication has been a fantastic help for millions of men around the globe. However, with the widely-broadcast effects of this well-known 'little blue pill' relating to sexual function, it's had more than its fair share of abusers—falsely acquiring the medication to try and enhance their sexual performance.

For most healthy young men, taking Viagra recreationally isn't expected to do too much immediate physical harm. That said, over the longer term, they may suffer psychological issues that could lead to the problem this ED medication is supposed to prevent.

The consequences of taking ED medications for recreational use could be far more severe—even fatal—for anyone abusing them with existing health issues or while taking other prescription or recreational drugs.

Why do some men take ED drugs recreationally?

With a drug designed to improve erections, some men take ED medications without being prescribed them to boost their performance, appearance, and sexual confidence with their sex partners. Even if they don't have a problem getting an erection, they expect bigger, longer-lasting erections and to be able to enjoy further bouts of sex far more quickly.

While the desired effect may materialize for a percentage of users, misusing Viagra and other prescription ED medications can be dangerous and is never recommended by medical professionals.

While many recreational ED medication users claim their use was purely due to curiosity, there are adverse effects for those who continue taking the drug.

The University of Texas carried out a study investigating recreational ED use on 3,056 students from US colleges and universities. Of the sample of student men, 5% reported using erectile dysfunction medications at some point. Of those, 74% (4% of the total sample) stated it was for recreational use, whereas only 26% (1%) were prescribed ED medication.

Most of those recreational users also admitted to mixing them with other illicit drugs and engaging in risky sexual behaviors while doing so.

1. Harder erections

For some users, the idea of performing as they did as young men in their sexual prime is hard to ignore when ED medications are so readily available. Harder erections may improve their sexual experience as well as their ego.

Younger men without the need for such medications may still acquire Viagra or other drugs to see if they experience any change in the size and hardness of their erections.

2. Improved sexual stamina

For those who experience erectile dysfunction at some level, ED meds can prolong the erection duration, improving the user's sexual stamina and treating the problem it's designed for.

However, young men without a need for erectile dysfunction medication are falling prey to rumor and hearsay.

ED medications are designed to assist in getting an erection; it doesn't deliver an automatic erection, the user still needs to be aroused, and their typical sexual performance will likely remain the same.

3. Reduced refractory period

Another reason for the recreational use of ED medications is that many users expect a shorter refractory period—the time it takes to regain an erection—and have sex again far sooner.

4. As an athletic boost

This can be considered the wild card in the pack. Sildenafil, the active ingredient in erectile dysfunction medication such as Viagra, is also used to treat high blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). Some athletes, hikers, and sports enthusiasts have been thought to abuse drugs known as vasodilators to increase blood flow into the lungs to improve performance.

And it's not without proof. A German clinical trial concluded that sildenafil increased the exercise capacity of a group of healthy mountaineers they held under observation.

Sadly, where such enthusiasts are willing to abuse one drug to boost performance, they'll likely use others.

There's little official information to confirm such reports, but it's thought that mixing steroids with other performance-related and abused drugs is relatively common practice.

The health risks of steroid use alone are a significant concern, so adding to the problem by using other erectile dysfunction drugs into the mix can only spell disaster.

5. As a party drug

Many drugs and prescribed medications are known to have side effects that cause erectile dysfunction. While party drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines, cannabis, and alcohol can boost the sensations and euphoria of sexual activity, they may also affect a user's ability to get or maintain an erection.

So, to combat the problem, Sildenafil or Viagra can be considered an option to improve their chances of having successful, fulfilling sex.

Mixing any medications can severely impact the patient, so combining unregulated illegal drugs can deliver unanticipated and severe responses and reactions. There's also the chance that where drugs have been acquired without a prescription, they may be counterfeit versions with unknown ingredients.

How do erectile dysfunction drugs work?

Shortly after its introduction, Viagra became a household name, and now, other brand-name medications are available to treat erectile dysfunction, each with its own active ingredient.



Viagra: Sildenafil 

The brand that made erectile dysfunction medication an everyday matter.

Cialis: Tadalafil 

A longer-lasting option that works for up to 36 hours.

Levitra: Vardenafil 

 A slightly longer-lasting alternative to Viagra.


The market leader, Viagra, produced by Pfizer, was approved for treating erectile dysfunction by the FDA in 1998. However, with its patent expiring in 2020, sildenafil is now available under many other brand names, and worryingly, counterfeit versions have been available through less reputable markets since almost day one of the treatment's introduction.

PDE-5 inhibitor

Viagra (or sildenafil) inhibits the enzyme phosphodiesterase-5. This increases the responsiveness of the arteries in the penis to the nervous system signals that encourage arousal for sexual activity (for example, touching and kissing, etc.), causing them to dilate.

Sildenafil and other drugs from the same family don't create erections; they aid the physical process in response to psychological stimuli. For the drugs to work effectively, they must be taken around an hour before sex.

What are the main risks of taking ED drugs recreationally?

Whether it stems from bravado, embarrassment, shame, or low self-esteem, some men are prepared to risk dabbling with prescription ED medication to enhance their sexual performance and appearance.

However, without the guidance of a healthcare practitioner and the exploration of existing conditions and medications, there are no guarantees that unguided usage won't lead to unforeseen issues.

1. Psychological dependence

If someone chooses to use Viagra recreationally to boost their confidence, their abuse, as shown in this study into the recreational use of sildenafil citrate, may become an additive crutch over the long term. If the user no longer believes they can achieve an erection without the drug, they can bring about the very problem it was created to help with.

Whereas other forms of drug addiction have more obvious dangerous side effects and withdrawal symptoms, ceasing to take it will cause no such harm.

However, the user may have to engage in counseling or therapy to regain their original natural performance.

2. Health side effects

Even taking a prescribed dose of an ED medical prescription can cause several side effects. According to Pfizer, the most common adverse effects include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Flushing
  • Dyspepsia
  • Abnormal vision
  • Nasal congestion
  • Back pain
  • Myalgia
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Rashes

    They suggest using caution when taking Viagra alongside a range of additional medications, where prolonged dangerous erections or loss of vision and hearing may occur.

    And that's only a shortlist of possible issues where the drug is commonly prescribed.

    The health side effects of counterfeit or unprescribed versions and alternatives are unpredictable and likely more severe.

    3. Risk of using counterfeit drugs

    According to Pfizer, in an article based on their studies of counterfeit Viagra and illegal online pharmacies, it's often difficult for buyers to tell the difference between legitimate and illegitimate sellers and their products.

    “We have seen counterfeit medicines manufactured in filthy and deplorable conditions, yet some people do not realize the risks that this poses to their health and safety, our top priority. Counterfeit medicines often contain the wrong or incorrect levels of active ingredient, as well as potentially dangerous contaminants. Samples of counterfeit Viagra tested by our labs have contained pesticides, wallboard, commercial paint and printer ink. These findings motivate us to continue our aggressive global efforts to stop those who prey on unsuspecting patients,” said Matthew Bassiur, vice president of Pfizer Global Security.

    Another paper
    , this time in the Translational Andrology and Urology publication, discusses 'The dangers of sexual enhancement supplements and counterfeit drugs to “treat” erectile dysfunction', exploring the fact that some users bypass legitimate healthcare options due to embarrassment or saving money.

    Without proper education and the correct prescribed dose, patients treated for erectile dysfunction were taking unnecessary risks.

    Their conclusions warned that improper dosing and contaminants put users at direct risk. Without proper education and the correct prescribed dose, patients treated for erectile dysfunction were taking unnecessary risks.

    4. Drug interactions between prescription medication and recreational Viagra use

    According to Viagra, it may affect how other medications, over-the-counter medicines, and supplements work. You must tell your healthcare provider if you take any of the following:

    • Nitrates
    • Guanylate cyclase stimulators
    • Alpha-blockers
    • HIV protease inhibitors
    • Some oral antifungal medicines
    • Some antibiotics
    • High blood pressure medicines
    • Other ED medicines and treatments

      Your healthcare provider also needs to know about problems you may have had with high or low blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks or other heart-related problems, cardiovascular disease, strokes, bleeding issues, stomach, kidney, or liver problems, pulmonary hypertension, any recent surgeries (within the past six months), or issues with erections or penis shape.

      What is considered “abusing” ED drugs?

      Any time sildenafil citrate or other drugs from the ED treatment family are taken or used without a prescription is misuse or abuse of the medication.

      Viagra is one of the most counterfeited drugs in the US and the world.

      What are the best alternatives for men that want the benefits they get from these drugs?

      For those looking to improve their erections without using prescription medication, there are lifestyle changes that can make you healthier, impacting your overall physical, mental, and sexual health.

      • Dietary changes
      • Increased exercise
      • Reduced stress
      • Smoking cessation and reduced alcohol intake
      • Psychotherapy
      • Mental healthcare

        For those looking for a more specific reaction to the problem of erectile dysfunction, the following have been shown to combat the issue or increase sexual desire directly, improving the neurological signals sent to the penis.

        1. Use penis pumps

        A penis pump is a non-invasive, non-medical device used to treat erectile dysfunction. They offer a safe and effective alternative to oral medications and other more invasive ED treatment options when used correctly.

        Penis pumps build stronger erections by increasing blood flow into the blood vessels in the penis. This is done using suction, removing pressure around the penis in the pump's vacuum tube. Once the user achieves an appropriate erection, the pump is removed, and a penis ring can be placed around the base of the penis to prevent the blood from leaving the penis.

        2. Introduce anal play for better orgasms

        For men looking into new ways to boost sexual pleasure, another frequently discussed topic is using prostate massagers to experience a different type of orgasm.

        Prostate orgasms are said to be far more intense than climaxing through the more traditional penile experience.

        The heightened sensations they can bring are often described as full-body orgasms, and, unlike penile orgasms, there's a possibility for multiple orgasms with their far shorter refractory period.

        How to Find the Right Performance Enhancement Tool for You

        We have built this short quiz to help you find your perfect performance enhancement tool.

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        Taking a risk with your health through drug abuse is dangerous. The use of erectile dysfunction drugs for recreational purposes is no different. Without the correct guidance and prescription, these users are gambling with their physical health and sexual performance.

        Taking a risk with your health through drug abuse is dangerous. The use of erectile dysfunction drugs for recreational purposes is no different.

        With many providers masquerading as genuine online pharmacies, having access to such drugs makes acquiring them simpler than ever; with no idea of quite what you're getting, it's more dangerous too.

        The only safe route into ED medication, and the use of Viagra, is through a prescription, and the only reason you should take them is if you have erectile dysfunction. As we've discussed, there are many ways to combat sexual dysfunction, and following trusted, healthy methods should be your only course of action.

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