‘I Was Really Struggling To Get It Up’: Why Younger Men Are Turning To Viagra


Aafter the breakup of a five-year relationship, James was nervous about dating again. He was 27, healthy and had a good sex life. But when it came to sleeping with new people, he experienced “performance anxiety”. “I really struggled to get it up,” he says. “I got to the point where I was having sex with a lot of people with a 75 percent error rate.” James assumed the problem was just the nerves. He has not sought advice from his GP. Instead, he started self-medicating with sildenafil — more commonly known as Viagra. It worked right away.

“When you take it, you can focus on enjoying the sex and being in the moment,” he says, “instead of thinking, ‘Oh my god, my d*** is failing. No! No! Stop! Don’t! Keep going!’” However, when he started dating someone, James felt an even greater need to rely on the drug to make sure he wasn’t a disappointment, and feeling that they were about to have sex. James decided that – just to be sure – he would “double up” on two 100mg maximum strength pills, however his new partner was not in the mood and fell asleep next to him.

“I felt like my penis was about to explode,” James says. “I was incredibly faint.” He remembers the blood capillaries on the surface of his eyes looming sharply as he stared into the darkness. He felt deeply uncomfortable. “I had to pee,” he says, “and so I pee from about two or three feet away to make it land in the toilet.”

Now in his thirties, James still regularly takes Viagra. He never told his partner what he had done. And he is not alone in that regard. He estimates that as many as half of his male friends have told him they use Viagra, and he suspects even more are doing so in secret. Some, like Josh, 27, admit to using it primarily as a recreational drug to enhance the sexual experience – “I tried it and it was like being 14 again.” The pill is usually associated with older men. But more and more men under 50 are now also taking sildenafil.

The possible side effects include a reduction in efficacy over time, as well as more serious consequences. “Long-term use of Viagra can potentially increase the risk of psychological dependence and has also been linked to several problems that affect the hearing, visual system, and vision,” said Dr. Shirin Lakhani, a physician who offers specialized treatments for erectile dysfunction in her private London. clinic. “Serious short-term side effects include stroke and heart attack in very rare cases, as well as diarrhea and gastritis.”

Figures released to The independent by pharmaceutical company Viatris show that Viagra Connect sold more than seven million tablets in the UK between May 2020 and May 2021. According to the company, more than 60 percent of UK users are between the ages of 25 and 54.



What’s painfully obvious to me is that women in their thirties obsess over and enjoy the details of the male anatomy

The medicine is much more accessible than in the past thanks to a relaxation of controls. Viagra Connect, released in 2018, is an over-the-counter form that is available without a prescription. It has become so popular that Boots announced the launch of its own generic version last month, which will be priced cheaper than the big brand. Generic sildenafil can also be purchased online with a prescription, which can be obtained relatively easily by answering a short consultation. “Of our erectile dysfunction, 9 percent are in our 20s and 21 percent in our 30s,” says Abbas Kanani, an online pharmacist.

That equates to many young users. And while erectile dysfunction is still a somewhat taboo subject among young men, it seems to be very common. According to a 2018 survey, about half of British men in their thirties report having trouble getting or maintaining an erection. Like James, however, young men with erectile dysfunction don’t necessarily talk to their doctors about it. “In my role as an NHS doctor, I hardly see any men in their twenties and thirties with erectile dysfunction,” says Dr Luke Pratsides, who also works for a commercial men’s health website. “This is probably because young men don’t have access to traditional health care channels and may not want to have multiple points of contact to discuss sexual function, which can be difficult for many to talk about.”

By bypassing their doctor, men miss out on a proper diagnosis. James has never asked his doctor about the underlying cause of his erectile dysfunction, but he suspects he is experiencing some level of performance anxiety. This is broadly defined as men who don’t necessarily have a problem every time they have sex, or when they masturbate, but who – like James – find comfort in the knowledge that the Pill will help them if they get stuck in a stiff murder spiral of negativity. “When I go to bed with someone for the first time, I get anxious, so I take it,” James says. “But over time I feel more comfortable with them — and then I don’t really need it.”

Performance anxiety is a common but little-discussed cause of erectile dysfunction, according to Peter Saddington, a sex therapist who works in the Andrology Department at Sheffield Royal Hallamshire Hospital. “Anxiety releases a chemical in the brain that has a negative effect on erections. It goes against a relaxed and sexual feeling,” he explains. The problem is often exacerbated by the excitement of having sex with someone for the first time. “The body interprets excitement as also being close to fear, because you are a new person. meet.”

“At some point,” Saddington notes, even sildenafil will stop working. “Viagra doesn’t give you an erection; it facilitates the natural process, so as you become more and more anxious, your anxiety may eventually negate the effect of sildenafil.”

James says he always feels anxious about his sexual performance — but especially with a new partner — and remembers the first time he heard some of his girlfriends talk about sex. “What’s painfully obvious to me is that women in their thirties are obsessed with and relish the details of male anatomy,” James says. “It’s like girth, length, movement. Everything is absolutely thought through – and with such taste – in front of their friends. So when I witnessed that — at a table with people I’ve actually slept with — I’m aware of how much pressure there is on delivering good sex.

“There was something fake about it. It wasn’t connected, passionate sex I think I’ve had with someone who isn’t on it.”

(Getty)

It’s unclear what James’ sexual partners think about it, because he usually doesn’t tell them. But Wendy, 37, says she would be unhappy if she found out her boyfriend was secretly taking Viagra. “Because I’d feel like, oh, am I not enough?” she says. “But then I understand [erectile dysfunction] is more common as boys get older.” As far as she knows, she has only had sex with a man who takes sildenafil once: a one-night stand, which she later found out from a mutual friend. Gender was average, a fact Wendy attributes in part to the drug. “There was something fake about it. It wasn’t connected, passionate sex I think I had with someone who wasn’t into it.”

Viatris, a subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer that manufactures Viagra, has provided some data to: The independent from a survey of 5,007 people—including 2,445 men—who commissioned them in 2020. One of the questions they asked was “what are the top three barriers that keep you from being more intimate?”. Nine percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 10 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds cited “Sexual problems, e.g., difficulty getting or maintaining an erection” as the top reason. Of all men who had experienced erectile dysfunction, nearly a third (29 percent) said it was because they were “worried that they would not be able to achieve or maintain an erection.”

However, the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction can be more complex. “Erectile dysfunction is often dismissed as psychological [or] stress-related and temporary and self-limiting in younger men,” says Dr. Lakhani. “While psychological reasons may play a role, it is important to realize that there may also be medical conditions that cause ED in younger men. Mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety affect erectile function, either directly or as a side effect of the drugs. used to treat them.Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, drinking, and obesity, may also play a role, Dr. Lakhani says, as can cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

Performance anxiety is often present with erectile dysfunction, she notes, but that doesn’t mean it’s the cause. dr. Lakhani suspects that the incidence of erectile dysfunction “may be much higher than reported because of the stigma and embarrassment surrounding sexual health problems”. It is important to get a correct diagnosis for the underlying causes of erectile dysfunction.

*Names have been changed

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