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Are Meds Ruining Your Sex Life?

Common medications can affect sexual functioning. Which ones? Sex & Love columnist Marty Klein, Ph.D., says you won't know unless you ask.prescriptions affect on sex drive

Health issues affect our sexuality in a variety of ways, including hormones, chronic pain, stamina, depression and body image. One of the most common health issues affecting our sexuality is prescription medication.

If you're not sure that a drug is affecting you sexually, ask your mate.

 

Don't jump to conclusions if you have one or two disappointing sexual experiences.

 

Treat your physician with respect by asking your questions.

Most medications have side effects. When these are minimal or trivial, we ignore them. But some side effects are major. And when they affect your sexual functioning, ignoring them is difficult.

The most common unwanted effects that drugs have on sexuality involve reduced desire, limited arousal and inhibited or impossible orgasm. Here are common sexual side effects of some popular medications:

Antidepressants: inhibited arousal and orgasm

Antihypertensives: inhibited erection

Anti-inflammatories: inhibited erection, difficult orgasm, increased skin sensitivity

Ulcer medication: limited desire, inhibited erection

Birth control pills: limited desire, decreased lubrication

Like most things involving sex, doctors and patients don't talk much about the sexual side effects of drugs. In fact, physicians don't even discuss it much with each other, although issues like Viagra and AIDS are beginning to change that.

Since doctors don't routinely raise the subject, you have to. Just as you might ask if a drug you've just been prescribed will make you drowsy or give you gas, ask if other patients experience sexual side effects from the medication you'll soon be taking. Don't worry about making your doctor uncomfortable: s/he's just hired help, remember.

When you and your doctor work together, the sexual side effects of drugs can be decreased or eliminated. Several strategies can accomplish this:

  • Change to a different brand of drugs, or one that works differently.
  • Take an additional drug to reduce the first one's sexual side effects.
  • Change the way you take the drug. For example, take it in the morning instead of the evening, or six days a week instead of seven.

Physicians and pharmaceutical companies have still not learned that sexual side effects are an important reason that people don't take their medicine the way they should. It's up to us to educate the health-care industry about the importance of sexual side effects, so that professionals will talk about it and think about it much more than they currently do.

If we don't push them, why should they think that change is necessary?

Marty Klein, Ph.D., is a licensed marriage counselor and sex therapist in Palo Alto, Calif. He has written for national magazines and appeared on many TV shows, including Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael and Jenny Jones. You can read more about his books, tapes and appearances on his Web site, www.SexEd.org.

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