Prescription Drugs and Sex—Not Always a Good Mix
Joe S., a 50-year-old accountant, takes a prescription medication for his
Joe and Jane's experiences are typical of many of Americans who take prescription drugs.
"I rarely see couples with sexual dysfunctions where one or the other or both are not on some kind of long-term medication," says Judy Seifer, PhD, sex therapist and clinical professor at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
Sexual Side Effects
For many people, sexual dysfunctions as side effects of medications come as an unpleasant surprise.
"Unfortunately, some doctors just don't tell patients about the most common drug side effects. Other doctors believe that if you tell patients they'll have a sex problem, you may create it or have them looking for it," says Dr. Adam Keller Ashton, clinical assistant professor of Psychiatry at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a member of the Society of Sex Therapy and Research.
Taking a drug that diminishes your sexual functioning doesn't mean the end of your sex life. There are many treatments that can alleviate sexual side effects. If you suspect that a drug you're taking is affecting your sexuality, the first step is to consult your doctor and your pharmacist.
Most people are greatly relieved when they discover that the drug is the problem and not themselves, reports Dr. Jay Dudley Chapman, a gynecologist in Cleveland, Ohio and Academic Dean of the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. If your doctor isn't open to discussing the problem with you, Chapman advises finding one who will.
High Blood Pressure Medications
By reducing the force of blood flow, which helps men to get erections and women to become lubricated, high blood pressure medications can have a negative impact on sexual arousal.
The following guide lists some prescription high blood pressure medications and their sexual side effects.
The first approach is usually to switch to a different drug or lowering the dosage. Another possibility is to stop taking the drug for a specified period, like a weekend, when you plan to have sex (a "drug holiday"). (Note: This should never be tried without consulting your doctor.)
If none of these approaches help or aren't appropriate, impotence treatments are an option. There are pills, injections, or
Tricyclic Antidepressants—These drugs, including older drugs such as amitriptyline (Elavil) and
For some people, feeling better emotionally via pharmacologic means makes up for any sexual problems caused by antidepressants. However, others stop taking these medications because of the sexual effects.
The treatment options are similar to those for high blood pressure medications. You can switch to a different antidepressant like
For most people, a sudden change in sexual responsiveness has at least some emotional impact.
Dr. Ashton has had patients whose prior sexual problems surface during discussions of sexual side effects. Some people on antidepressants become depressed again over their lack of sexual fulfillment. Sexual difficulties can be a blow to a person's self-esteem. It can be a great loss for a man not to be able to have an erection or a woman to become aroused. As a result, sex with their partners can become so uncomfortable that the couples often end up withdrawing from the relationship.
Consider using a variety of sex therapy techniques to communicate feelings with your partner and reconnect with one another. These include nonsexual touching exercises like massage that help partners to experience physical pleasure together once again. Many people find new ways to enhance their sexual satisfaction.
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
United States Food and Drug Administration
Canadian Family Physician
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Last reviewed July 2010 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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