S3xual enhancement drugs, are they necessary? [Read]

Sexual dysfunction refers to any condition that prevents any individual from experiencing full satisfaction from sexual activity.

It can affect both genders at any point in time in life. However, it becomes increasingly common as one grows old. 

Issues of sexual dysfunction can lead to sexual misunderstandings and stress between couples. Most men usually lack an understanding of the overall concept of sexuality and how to interpret their partner’s body signal.

Sexual dysfunction can have a variety of causes. They can range from medical conditions, such as alcoholism, diabetes and hypertension. It can be as a result of the side effect of medications, such as some anti-depressants. It can also be caused by psychological issues such as stress, anxiety and menopause.

In men, sexual dysfunction can manifest as lack of desire, difficulty in obtaining/maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction), inability to control timing of ejaculation (premature ejaculation) and inability to ejaculate. Ejaculation is the release of semen from the penis during an orgasm. 

Premature ejaculation can eventually lead to erectile dysfunction in some men. The most common one in men is erectile dysfunction. However, most men seek medications for premature ejaculation even when they have not been medically diagnosed with that. In women, sexual dysfunction mostly manifests as decreased sexual libido and difficulty in becoming sexually aroused, uncontrolled and painful spasms of muscles surrounding the vagina when anything (eg penis, tampon and dildo) is inserted in the vagina (vaginismus) and lack of natural lubrication.

Due to the effect sexual dysfunction can have on the overall health of an individual; it has led to the development of a variety of medications to solve such issues. These can be broadly grouped into two categories; that is sexual enhancers and aphrodisiacs. Sexual enhancers are drugs which enhance erectile function and can also delay ejaculation. Aphrodisiacs on the other hand increase sexual arousal and improve libido. Sexual enhancers are mostly used in men. 

They mostly have the same mechanism of action. To make it as less technical as possible, they work by improving the functioning of nitric oxide (a naturally occurring chemical in the body responsible for dilating blood vessels) by relaxing smooth muscles. This helps to increase blood flow to many areas including the penis and hence allowing a man to achieve and maintain an erection. The delay sprays on the other hand, mostly contain a medication that numbs the head through to the shaft of the penis, hence reducing sensations which in the long run delays ejaculation.

Lately, we get flooded with commercials on medications to help men last long in bed when we switch on our radio, TV, or even when siting in a troski (a public means of transport in Ghana). This has led to a trend where we see the youth abusing medications said to help one last long in bed. These can be in the form of pills, drinks, herbal concoctions or sprays. There is no set time for ejaculation as it varies from time to time and it depends on a variety of factors. Drugs for treatment of sexual dysfunction have become recreational drugs amongst the youth especially males due to societal pressure to “perform”. Averagely, it takes 5-7 minutes for a man to reach ejaculation. If most young men get to know this, they will realize there is no need to take these medications as recreational drugs. With that of the herbal medications, most of these have not been approved by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA). When this happens, no one seems to know what the exact constituents of these medications are, the effects and adverse effects on the system and the drug -drug interaction. Some even contain a mixture of herbal and orthodox medications.

Most of the medications for sexual dysfunction are designed for people to treat an underlying cause or for the management of it. Using herbal concoctions especially, without knowing its constituents and combining it with orthodox medications can lead to kidney disease and long term kidney failure. Notable side effects of most orthodox medications for sexual dysfunction include dizziness, headaches, nausea and blurred vision. It can even cause death especially when one over doses, and priapism in other cases. Priapism basically is a persistent, painful erection that can last for hours. The youth do not necessarily need to take medications to help improve their sexual function. Exercise, having a good diet, reducing stress, not overthinking when it comes to sex are all various ways of improving one’s sexual life.

Women on the other hand, do not abuse sexual enhancement drugs as compared to men. In most cases, women take aphrodisiacs rather than sexual enhancement drugs. Some also openly don’t talk about their sexual dysfunction issues. In some cases of vaginal dryness, a lubricant or good foreplay can improve vaginal dryness. Also, talking to a gynecologist is advisable in all cases. Lubes are readily available over the counter. Drugs for female treatment of sexual dysfunction are not as common as that for men, but there are still some on the market. Talking to your health practitioner can help to tailor a solution to serve you.

In 2015, US FDA approved a pill for the treatment of female sexual arousal in pre-menopausal women. In 2019, another self-administered injection, used as needed also received approval. The exact mechanism of action for the pill is still not well understood. Research indicates that it raises the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine whiles reducing levels of serotonin. Dopamine is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter in the body that has a role in boosting sexual desire whiles norepinephrine promotes sexual arousal. These medications are prescribed only if benefits outweigh the risk, they are however currently not available for use in Ghana. Notable side effects include dizziness, insomnia and hypotension. There is still some controversy about it because of the dizzy spells it causes in most women.

Whiles there is really nothing wrong with enjoying a drink or two before taking a sexual enhancement pill, it is important to drink responsibly to get optimal effects and good sexual performance. Alcohol in excess can reduce blood flow to the penis, making it even more difficult to achieve an erection. It can also reduce testosterone levels which can reduce erection and cause premature ejaculation. Lastly, excessive alcohol intake can make it difficult for our body to breakdown and process the active ingredient in most sexual enhancement drugs, preventing one from fully enjoying the benefits of the medication. As such, even though there may not be any adverse reaction with taking sexual enhancement medications with alcohol, it’s generally not advisable, because how much is too much?

Pills alone cannot solve issues of sexual dysfunction. However, combining pills with some form of psychological help as well as stress reduction can improve sexual function and in the long run, reduce the abuse of sexual enhancement drugs. Furthermore, before purchasing any form of sexual enhancement pill, kindly talk to a health professional and seek medical advice.

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