Viagra – Not Just for Old Men

A few weeks ago I was having a couple of drinks with a few mates, when unsurprisingly we started talking about sex. The conversation naturally drifted between topics of varying degrees of bad taste, when someone chimed in to let us know he had begun taking Viagra.

After the initial wave of laughter died down the group quickly divided into two camps:

  1. Those that continued to giggle and claim it was only for old blokes who can’t get it up anymore.
  2. Those that had used Viagra or weren’t opposed to the idea.

This divided reaction, and how vehemently both sides stuck to their positions got me thinking about the facts behind Viagra, and whether or not it really is just for old men. 

Here’s what I found.

Replacing Monkey Testicles

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a problem as old as time, and the remedies to cure it stretch back just as far. The Ancient Egyptians believed that a floppy cock was the result of a curse that could only be cured by consuming baby crocodile hearts, while the Greeks and Romans ate the genitals of snakes, roosters and goats all in the name of getting hard.

And of course, there is the tale of Serge Voronoff, who implanted monkey testicle tissue in a patient to try and cure his ED (spoiler: it didn’t work).

Luckily for us we live in the age of modern medicine and have moved beyond consuming random animal parts if we need a bit of help getting a boner. 

Discovered in 1989 by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Viagra, or sildenafil citrate to use its non-branded name, was originally intended to be a treatment for pulmonary hypertension (heart-related chest pain). The drug proved largely useless for treating chest pain, but participants in early trials started reporting increased erectile function. Pfizer, not missing a beat, immediately recognised the commercial potential for the world’s first boner bill and quickly changed tact, repositioning the drug as a remedy for ED. 

The drug would eventually be patented in 1996 and released to the public in 1998. Viagra went on to net Pfizer $400 million in the first quarter of sales, peaking at $1.8 billion annually in 2008. Definitely more profitable than crocodile hearts or animal testicles.

How Does it Make My Dick Hard?

To understand how Viagra works, it’s first important to understand some basics about the male anatomy. 

The penis is a bit like a flesh balloon; however, unlike a balloon that is filled with air to grow bigger, your cock fills with blood to make it harder (and sometimes bigger, depending on your set-up).

More specifically, hormones released by the brain when you’re horny lead to a chemical reaction. This reaction in turn causes the arteries in your penis to open up, filling two chambers known as the corpora cavernosa with blood. At the same time, your veins are also constricting, stopping the blood from flowing back out again. 

The combined effect is an increase in blood pressure in your penis – resulting in a boner. 

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is caused by anything that prevents this process from occurring normally. In the instances where Viagra is an appropriate treatment, ED is being caused by inadequate blood flow to the penis. To solve this problem, the arteries to the penis need to be enlarged sufficiently to allow blood to flow and an erection to occur.

This is where Viagra comes in. The drug works by interrupting the chemical reaction mentioned above. Specifically, Viagra eliminates a chemical called PDE, which decomposes another chemical, cGMP, that is responsible for causing the arteries in the corpora cavernosa to dilate. The overall effect is more cGMP in your cock, which means more blood and a nice hard boner.

Will It Make Me Superman?

Viagra has proven to be an extremely effective remedy for erectile dysfunction. Clinical studies have shown that over 99% of men studied report improved sexual activity and approximately 95% report that the drug significantly enhanced their ability to get hard.

Now, any drug offering a rock-hard cock is going to be of interest to a lot of people. This has led to a lot of recreational use of Viagra. There is sentiment out there (primarily online) that taking Viagra can make you harder, bigger and last longer. 

Unfortunately, for anyone out there wanting to become a tripod, there is no scientific evidence to support this notion. Ultimately, all Viagra does is ensure the proper operation of a bodily function. If there was no problem in the first place, the drug cannot enhance performance or physiology beyond what genetics has endowed you with. 

Viagra & Brewer’s Droop

Another common reason to take Viagra recreationally is to ensure you can bring your A-game after a big night out.

Although Viagra is an effective remedy for erectile dysfunction, it isn’t a sure-fire cure for the effects of drugs and/or alcohol on your ability to perform. Quite simply, the more inebriated you are, the less effective the drug will be. 

That isn’t to say Viagra and alcohol can’t be consumed at the same time. Studies have shown that sildenafil and alcohol don’t seem to interact, so it shouldn’t cause a negative reaction when taken at the same time. 

Illegal drugs, on the other hand, always come with an element of mystery. If you plan to combine them with Viagra there is no way to be certain of the results – you could get a super boner or it may never work again, it’s your risk to take.

Not for the Ladies

The theory goes that if Viagra can help me get an erection then maybe it will work for women in a similar way. There was a study conducted in the early 2000s that indicated that Viagra can result in improved sexual sensation and satisfaction for women.

As with men, Viagra only appears to have a physiological effect in women and thus has proven to be of little help with arousal problems. It’s important to note as well that this study was only undertaken on a small scale, so the findings can’t be considered definitive. 

Luckily for women, there has been progress in this area. Specifically, a drug called flibanserin, branded as Addyi, has recently been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of low sexual arousal in women. 

Just like Viagra, Addyi was originally developed for a different purpose (as an antidepressant), but was repurposed once it was found that it had benefits in treating sexual dysfunction. 

Addyi is a very different drug to Viagra, treating low arousal in women, rather than the physiological process of getting a hard-on as Viagra does. Although researchers aren’t 100% certain how Addyi works, it’s believed that it changes the serotonin system of the brain, along with indirectly affecting dopamine. Clinical trials have shown that the drug isn’t 100% effective, but some women feel it’s better than nothing.

Is It Just for Old Men?

We now know that Viagra works, and we know how it works – but who is it for? Is it just something that old guys need to take, or can it be of use for blokes whatever their age? Let’s have a look at some facts:

  • Erectile dysfunction affects or has affected 50% of men in their 50s and 60% of men in their 60s and above.
  • Almost 26% of adult men under the age of 40 suffer from ED, with almost half of these cases being classed as “severe”. 
  • A recent UK study showed that the prevalence of ED in men 30 and under may be increasing. 

Looking at these statistics it’s clear that erectile dysfunction doesn’t discriminate based on age. Indeed, the risk factors associated are not necessarily age specific:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep disorders

So while it’s clear that problems with getting hard are more likely to occur as you get older, this isn’t to say that erectile dysfunction isn’t something that can affect men of all ages. It logically follows then that Viagra is a viable option for men of any age.

Is It Okay for Me to Take Viagra?

Whether or not it’s okay to take Viagra ultimately has two answers:

  1. At a purely hypothetical level, there’s no reason for a man not to take Viagra, no matter his age. ED affects men of all ages, cultures and life circumstances, and Viagra is legal, relatively safe and actually not that expensive (roughly $25 for a pack of twelve). 
  2. Practically, this is a question you need to ask your doctor. Like any drug, Viagra has side effects, and interacts with other substances and health conditions that need to be considered by a medical professional before you make up your mind.

One thing is for certain, it’s not something to be embarrassed about. Sex is an enjoyable experience, and for many couples, an important intimacy-building activity. Being unable to perform can not only put a strain on this part of your relationship, it could also potentially have an impact on your mental health – another condition some men typically ignore or laugh about.

I’m no doctor, so this is purely the same advice I’d give my friends who were giggling over it at drinks: treat it like any other medical condition. You wear glasses if you can’t see. You take medication if you have high blood pressure. Why wouldn’t you take a little blue pill if it meant you could have sex without performance anxiety?

Alternatively, if you wanted to go another way, you could always buy some sex toys from me – it might help, or at the very least it’ll be fun.