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Is your medication causing erectile dysfunction?

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Find out which common treatments can mess with your sexual performance — and what you can do to stay healthy and happy inside the bedroom and out.
Written by Matt McMillen
Updated on June 25, 2021

If you struggle to rise to the occasion in the bedroom, you may find the cause in your medicine cabinet. A variety of medications can cause sexual side effects in men. They can make it difficult to achieve or maintain an erection. Or they can put the brakes on your sex drive, making it less likely that you’ll find yourself in the mood in the first place.

“One of the most common yet sensitive topics related to medications is sexual dysfunction, specifically in men,” says Ryan Nowicki, PharmD. He’s the corporate assistant manager of pharmacy operations for Scripts Pharmacy at Orlando Health. “Certain types can cause sexual-related side effects in up to 70% of men taking them.”

Fortunately, getting your groove back is often simple. It may mean switching to a new medication, adjusting your lifestyle or adding another medication that will make sex possible for you. Think Viagra® (sildenafil) or Cialis® (tadalafil). Before we review some of the medications that commonly cause sexual side effects, know this: Your path back to your former sex life starts with a conversation about the problem.

“The best thing to do is to speak to your doctor or pharmacist about your options,” says Nowicki.

Stressing about money is another libido killer. If you need help paying for your medications, Optum Perks can help. Download our app to access coupons instantly.

Antidepressants and sexual side effects

Nearly 1 in 3 men will experience depression at some point in their lives, according to the American Psychological Association. Depression can be a debilitating, even deadly, disease. But effective medications exist to ease the symptoms and aid recovery. One frequently prescribed class of antidepressant is SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. They include Prozac® (fluoxetine), Zoloft® (sertraline), Celexa® (citalopram) and others (if you need help paying for any of these medications, click the links for instant coupons). SSRIs often come with sexual side effects, including:

  • Delayed ejaculation, which means it takes a man more time and effort to climax
  • Inability to have an orgasm
  • Decreased or absent libido (sex drive)

These side effects most often occur within the first several weeks of treatment, says Nowicki. For some men, they may improve over time. Other men will have sexual side effects for as long as they’re on the medication. But don’t stop taking anything without talking to your doctor first. He or she may recommend an alternative, such as Wellbutrin® (bupropion), which treats depression with fewer sexual side effects. Your doctor also may lower your dosage. This can reduce side effects while still managing your depression. Medications such as sildenafil or tadalafil, says Nowicki, “will greatly improve sexual function while taking antidepressants.”

To learn more about treatment for depression, read our guide.

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Blood pressure medications and sexual side effects

High blood pressure boosts your risk of a stroke or heart disease, so keeping it in the normal range should be a priority. But some of the medications commonly prescribed for it, including diuretics (water pills) and beta blockers, do cause sexual side effects. These include:

  • Decreased sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Difficulty ejaculating
  • Decreased testosterone

Nearly 15% of men experience sexual side effects from diuretics, according to a study in the Journal of Hypertension. And a review of studies from researchers in The Netherlands found that about 20% of men on beta blockers do as well. But Nowicki has good news: “As your body gets used to a new blood pressure medication, these side effects often subside.” For some, though, they can persist. If you continue to have sexual side effects, don’t worry. Nowicki says that numerous other types of blood pressure medications are available. Sildenafil or tadalafil may help, but don’t take them without your doctor’s go-ahead. They can be dangerous for men who have had heart attacks or strokes, or who have congestive heart failure, unstable angina, low blood pressure or poorly controlled high blood pressure.

Antihistamines and sexual side effects

During allergy season, you may find yourself reaching for Benadryl® (diphenhydramine), Chlor-Trimeton® (chlorpheniramine) or another over-the-counter antihistamine. Be warned: They can cause temporary erectile dysfunction and a lower libido. Fortunately, there’s an easy solution to this problem: “Timing is key,” says Nowicki. “Avoiding these types of medications when you plan to be sexually active can drastically reduce the likelihood of encountering an issue.”

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Additional sources
Men and depression stat: American Psychological Association
Diuretics and erectile dysfunction: Journal of Hypertension. (2018). “The Impact of Diuretics on Erectile Function in Patients with Arterial Hypertension.”
Beta blockers and erectile dysfunction: Netherlands Heart Journal. (2014). “A Review of the Positive and Negative Effects of Cardiovascular Drugs on Sexual Function: A Proposed Table for Use in Clinical Practice.”
Erectile dysfunction medication risks: Harvard Medical School