Recreational Viagra and ED Drug Use: Is It Dangerous?

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Medically reviewed by Ho Anh, MD Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 3/13/2018

If you struggle with erectile dysfunction, ed medications like Viagra (sildenafil) might be something of a miracle for you. As is true for any prescription drug, however, ED medications come with risks for interactions and side effects. They are not something you want to use irresponsibly.

You might consider this a matter of common sense, but research suggests that there is a measurable number of users who take ED drugs recreationally. Some men take them to impress a new partner with their sexual prowess while others do it to enhance their own experience.

Regardless the reasoning, recreational use of erectile dysfunction drugs can be dangerous, so think twice before you do it! Keep reading to learn more about this topic.

How Do Erectile Dysfunction Drugs Work?

To understand why someone might use ED drugs recreationally, you need to have a basic understanding of how these drugs work.

Though there are both psychological and physiological factors that come into play, erectile dysfunction is largely a vascular issue. Erectile dysfunction is defined by the Mayo Clinic as the inability to get and keep an erection firm enough for sex. The underlying cause may vary from one case to another, but the primary problem is a lack of blood flowing to the penis – you cannot achieve or maintain an erection unless the penis fills properly with blood.

Erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra (sildenafil citrate) and Cialis (tadalafil) are classified as phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors which increase the amount of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide works alongside other substances to relax and dilate the blood vessels, allowing blood to flow more freely into the penis.

According to the manufacturer, Viagra typically begins working within 30 to 60 minutes, though you can take it up to 4 hours before anticipated sexual activity. Factors such as age, diet, alcohol use, dosage, and concurrent medications can impact how long the effects of the drug will last.

Why Use ED Drugs Without a Prescription?

Sildenafil, more commonly known by the brand name Viagra, was approved by the FDA for treatment of erectile dysfunction in 1998. Since then, more than 35 million men around the world have used it to improve the strength or duration of their erections.

Within 6 months of its release, more than 5 million prescriptions were written for Viagra. Between 1998 and 2002, use of Viagra rose among men aged 18 to 45 by more than 300%. During that same time period, Viagra use more than doubled in men aged 45 to 55. Today, more than 1.7 million prescriptions are written each year. With nearly two million new prescriptions being written each year, Viagra use continues to skyrocket.

But what about the men who don’t have a prescription for Viagra or another ED medication?

Research suggests that as much as 10% to 20% of erectile dysfunction drug use is recreational. Furthermore, as many as 50% of those men who use ED drugs recreationally combine it with alcohol and illegal drugs.

There are several reasons why men take ED medications recreationally. For some men, it’s a matter of boosting their sexual performance to impress a new partner or it may simply be a matter of improving their own experience.

Though a majority of men who take Viagra recreationally do so to improve their sexual performance, there is a subset of men who use it to boost their athletic performance. Referred to as “Vitamin V” by some athletes, taking Viagra with anabolic steroids prior to a workout helps to dilate the blood vessels, speeding the delivery of those steroids to the major muscle groups.

Steroid use comes with some pretty serious risks including reduced sperm count, testicular atrophy, male-pattern baldness, and breast development – it can also lead to infertility. For some athletes, Viagra is a necessity to restore sexual function that has been destroyed by years of steroid abuse.

The trouble with recreational use of erectile dysfunction drugs is that the reality often doesn’t align with the expectation. Men who take ED drugs recreationally believe that it will give them better, longer lasting erections or that it might reduce their “refractory period” - the time it takes to achieve another erection following orgasm.

The reality is, however, that taking Viagra without a medical need can actually inhibit sexual performance and reduce overall satisfaction. It may also lead to an increase in risky sexual behaviors.

What Are the Risks for Recreational Use of ED Drugs?

Men who take Viagra and other ED drugs recreationally assume that it will improve their sexual performance when, in reality, it may have the opposite effect. According to the results of a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, recreational users of ED medications reported lower erectile confidence and lower overall satisfaction compared to non-users. In fact, the more frequently these test subjects used ED drugs, the lower their erectile confidence became which, in turn, reduced normal erectile function.  

Not only can recreational use of ED drugs impact your sexual performance, but it may lead to an increase in risky sexual behaviors.

A review published in the American Journal of Medicine analyzed 14 recent studies of Viagra use among gay men. According to the review, more than 10% of men who have sex with men use Viagra (sildenafil citrate) and those men are 2 to 6 times more likely to have unprotected anal sex with a male partner whose HIV status is unknown. These statistics highlight a correlation between Viagra use in gay men and an increased risk for STDs and HIV.

In general, men who take ED drugs like Viagra recreationally are likely to fit into one or more of the following categories:

  • Men who have multiple sexual partners
  • Men who use illegal drugs
  • Men who frequently have one-night stands
  • Men who have unprotected sex
  • Men who have sex with other men

Many of the men who use ED drugs like Viagra recreationally purchase them online or from offshore pharmacies. Not only are these drugs not approved by the FDA, but they are illegal and are more likely to be counterfeit versions of the drug. This only adds to the risks associated with recreational use of Viagra and other ED drugs.

Erectile dysfunction drugs have been prescribed to more than 35 million men over the years, often with positive results. The most important thing you need to remember, however, is that these drugs are only safe when taken as directed by a doctor.

Taking ED drugs recreationally could destroy what’s left of your erectile function and might even make you dependent on the drugs themselves. Overall, the risk doesn't seem worth the reward.

Hard made easy. Find out how you can improve your erections.  Ask a doctor about trying Viagra today.

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.