Overview: What goes up, must come down. It’s an
old story, but never more unwelcome than today, as legions of
baby-boomer males (and even post-baby-boomers) confront their
declining virility and sexual potency. That’s why Viagra®
turned into pharmacological gold as soon as it hit pharmacies
in 1998. Then it went platinum, as Viagra became a franchise
builder for Internet pharmacies. And faster than you can say
“sex-stasy,” Viagra was on the recreational drug map,
as both gay and straight revelers adopted it as a way of reversing
the effects of ecstasy, amphetamines, and other drugs known to
impair sexual function.
Appearance: Blue, diamond-shaped tablets, with “25,”
“50,” or “100” embossed on one side, denoting
Actions/Effects: Viagra works by dilating blood vessels
throughout the body, allowing blood to flow more readily to the
heart, lungs and other organs. In addition, Viagra relaxes smooth
muscle contractions in the penis. About 70 percent of men using
it report some improvement in achieving and maintaining an erection.
Effects usually begin within 30 minutes, and last about 4 hours.
Risks/Side Effects: Side effects include headache, flushed
skin, and anxiety. More serious risks can include distorted vision
and priapism — a painful, prolonged erection that may require
medical intervention. After 69 deaths were linked to Viagra during
its first three months on the market, the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration issued a warning against using it with amyl nitrate
(“poppers”), nitroglycerin, and nitrous oxide. Since
each dilates blood vessels, a dangerous drop in blood pressure
can result, leading to possible heart attack or stroke. Also,
those taking protease inhibitors should not use Viagra without
consulting a physician.
Medical Uses: In addition to its primary uses, Viagra
is being tested against pulmonary hypertension in children and
infertility in women.
Trends: Viagra was quickly adopted by users of ecstasy
(and other club drugs known to decrease sexual performance),
a combination the media quickly dubbed “sex-tasy.”
Health officials warn that men who take Viagra with alcohol or
drugs are more likely to indulge in unsafe sex. In a study of
844 male patients in San Francisco, 32% of gays and 7% of straight
men who reported using Viagra were more likely to have multiple
sexual partners and to have contracted a sexually-transmitted
disease than men who had not used it.
Demographics: On the heels of its fast start, Viagra
was soon joined on the prescription-drug hit parade by act-alike
drugs Levitra® and Cialis®. Cumulatively, the drugs accounted
for more than 16.7 million U.S. prescriptions in 2005.