Get Hard or Your Money Back. Start here

Is Viagra Dependency a Thing?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 1/21/2022

If you’re one of the tens of millions of men affected by erectile dysfunction (ED), a common type of sexual dysfunction, you’ve no doubt heard of the medication Viagra®.

A prescription medication for erectile dysfunction, Viagra -- or sildenafil, its active ingredient -- is a PDE5 inhibitor that works by increasing the flow of blood to the soft erectile tissue found inside your penis. It’s a quick, convenient option for treating ED that’s used by men of all ages.

One of the most common concerns many men have about Viagra is whether or not it’s addictive or habit-forming. Put simply, if you start using Viagra to treat ED, is it possible that as time goes on, you could become dependent on it? 

Fortunately, the vast majority of men who use Viagra for ED do so without developing any type of physical or psychological dependence.

However, like with other medications, there are correct and incorrect ways to use Viagra. When it’s used incorrectly as a recreational drug, Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medicines can have the potential to lead to negative side effects.

Below, we’ve talked about Viagra “dependence” in more detail, with a focus on whether or not it is something that you should be concerned about before using Viagra to treat ED.

Is Viagra a Physically Addictive Drug?

Many medications, including those available in pharmacies, can cause or contribute to physical dependency and addiction. 

For example, more than one million people have some level of opioid use disorder -- a type of drug addiction that’s often caused by the use of opioid medications prescribed to provide relief from pain.

Understandably, one of the most common concerns people have about Viagra is that it could be a type of physically addictive medication, similar to many prescription painkillers, stimulants and other drugs.

The good news is that sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra) isn’t linked to physical addiction, meaning you won’t develop a physical dependence on it or develop withdrawal symptoms if you stop using it suddenly.

This is also true for other medications for ED, such as tadalafil (the active ingredient in Cialis®), vardenafil (the active ingredient in Levitra®) and avanafil (sold as Stendra®).

These medications all work to treat erectile dysfunction in the same general way -- by inhibiting the enzyme phosphodiesterase-5, or PDE5, that’s responsible for restricting blood flow through your blood vessels into the soft erectile tissue of your penis. 

Erections are all about blood flow. When you’re aroused, your nervous system signals to nerves near your penis, causing the muscles that control blood flow to relax. Blood flows in and fills the internal tissue of your penis, called the corpora cavernosa, creating an erection.

As your penis becomes firmer and larger, a fibrous membrane called the tunica albuginea traps the blood inside your penis, allowing you to sustain an erection during sex.

A variety of different factors can affect your blood flow, including medical conditions. You may be more likely to experience ED if you have cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) or another health condition that affects your blood vessels.

By improving blood flow to your penis, medications like Viagra make it easier to get and keep an erection when you’re in the mood for sex.

Men who use drugs like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra usually find that their erections are firmer and last longer than without medication.

This can result in improved sexual performance and, for lots of guys, greater sexual confidence and enjoyment.

Currently, there is no scientific evidence that sildenafil, tadalafil or any other medications used to treat erectile dysfunction are physically addictive. 

Unlike some medications that cause physical dependence, Viagra doesn’t have any direct effect on the reward pathways inside your brain that can potentially trigger physical addiction or cause withdrawal symptoms. 

Put simply, although Viagra can cause side effects, there’s no reason to worry about becoming physically addicted to it or suffering from withdrawal if you suddenly decide to stop using it. 

get hard, stay hard

genuine Viagra® makes it possible

Can Using Viagra Lead to Psychological Dependence?

While Viagra isn’t physically addictive, it may be possible for people who use it improperly, at an overly high dose or without a prescription to become psychologically dependent on it for optimal sexual performance. 

Psychological Viagra dependence isn’t common in men who use the medication to treat erectile dysfunction. After all, this is the intended purpose of Viagra, and people using it this way have a legitimate, clearly defined reason for seeking it out in the first place. 

Instead, psychological dependency may occur in younger men who use Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors for their sexual performance boosting properties.

These users may buy and use Viagra without a prescription, possibly at a dose that exceeds the typical 25mg, 50mg or 100mg dosage for erectile dysfunction. 

Viagra and other ED medications can have benefits even for men who don’t suffer from erectile dysfunction.

They can shorten the refractory period and result in firmer erections, making them an appealing option for those looking to boost sexual performance.

Using Viagra without a prescription to boost sexual performance isn’t the same as using Viagra as intended.

Instead, it’s abusing the medication by using it in a way that isn’t recommended or endorsed by the drug’s developers, the FDA or healthcare providers.

Not only can this potentially contribute to psychological dependence, but it may also result in a higher risk of developing adverse effects from Viagra.

Common side effects of Viagra and other ED medications include headache, muscle pain, back pain, facial flushing, dyspepsia (indigestion), abnormal vision, nasal congestion, dizziness, rash and nausea.

Can Viagra Cause ED?

Because Viagra only works by increasing blood flow to your penis, it doesn’t have any harmful effects on your penis. Using Viagra won’t damage your penis or vascular system, or cause any “depletion” of your ability to function in bed naturally.

However, using Viagra without a prescription as a sexual performance enhancer may have an impact on your attitudes to sex by increasing your sexual confidence with medication, all while reducing it without medication. 

Researchers believe that this type of Viagra use may lead to psychological dependence, which could potentially turn into psychological erectile dysfunction.

Put simply, by using Viagra recretionally to enhance your sexual performance, it could turn into a crutch that you rely on, leading to stress, anxiety and potentially ED when it isn’t available. 

ED treatments, delivered

Generic for Viagra (sildenafil)

The more affordable FDA-approved medication that treats Erectile Dysfunction at a quarter of the cost. 🙌

Generic for Cialis (tadalafil)

Affordable and helps get the job done. Generic Cialis helps you get and maintain your erections through a simple, daily dosage.

Viagra®

The OG Little Blue Pill that made its name as the first prescription Erectile Dysfunction treatment.

Cialis®

Cialis helps you get and keep stronger erections with a daily or as-needed pill.


How to Avoid Viagra Dependency

The most effective way to avoid Viagra dependency is to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider and use Viagra or similar medication as recommended.

When it’s used as prescribed, Viagra is a safe, effective and reliable medication for dealing with ED that’s neither physically nor psychologically addictive. 

In short, if you have a prescription for Viagra and use it as your healthcare provider  recommends, there’s no need to feel worried about dependence. You can also: 

  • Only use Viagra at the prescribed dose. Viagra comes in several different dosages, from 25mg to 100mg. The recommended starting dose is 50mg. Make sure to use the medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider. If you don’t experience any improvements from Viagra, or if you develop side effects at your prescribed dosage, talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting your dose.

  • Set realistic sexual performance expectations. You may be more at risk of becoming psychologically dependent on Viagra if you create unrealistic expectations for yourself in bed, such as being able to always get a firm, lasting erection. It’s always best to communicate clearly with your partner so that both of you are on the same page, without any pressure or anxiety.

  • Only use Viagra if you think you need it. If you’re prescribed Viagra, you don’t need to take it every time you have sex. Try only taking Viagra or other ED medication when you feel anxious or concerned about your sexual performance.

  • Limit the amount of porn you watch. Watching porn may negatively affect your sexual performance and affect your expectations from sex. In some cases, it may even result in a form of ED referred to as porn-induced erectile dysfunction. If you find it difficult to get and maintain an erection with your partner when you’re able to get hard while watching porn, try to limit the amount of pornography you watch.

  • Consider other treatments for ED. Viagra is a highly effective treatment for ED, but it’s not the only option available. Other options for treating ED include psychotherapy, pelvic floor exercises, vacuum constriction devices and surgical procedures. Used on their own or in combination with Viagra, other treatments can help you improve your erections and avoid relying solely on medication. 

Overall, Viagra is not an addictive medication. Used with a prescription at a normal dose, Viagra dependence isn’t something that you’ll generally need to worry about.

Apply the tips above and you’ll be able to treat your erectile dysfunction successfully, all without any drug dependence concerns.

generic viagra (sildenafil)

get hard or your money back

Learn More About Treating Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is a very common issue that can affect men of all ages. In fact, around 30 million men in the United States alone suffer from some level of ED.

Viagra and similar medications work by increasing blood flow to your penis. Although they may become psychologically addictive if misused, there’s no evidence that using Viagra can lead to physical dependence or addiction.

There’s also no scientific evidence that Viagra and other ED medications can cause withdrawal symptoms if stopped abruptly.

If you think you have erectile dysfunction, help is available. We offer several FDA-approved ED medications online, including Viagra and generic sildenafil, all of which are available following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. 

You can also learn more about treating ED in our guide to the most common erectile dysfunction treatments and drugs

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.