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Last updated: Jan 21, 2022
4 min read

Taking Viagra for fun: is it safe?

yael cooperman

Medically Reviewed by Yael Cooperman, MD

Written by Michael Martin

Disclaimer

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Viagra (generic name sildenafil; see Important Safety Information) is the go-to prescription medication for the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED), and with good reason. It works well, and it’s generally safe to use if you don’t have certain underlying health conditions and if you’re not taking certain other medications.

But is Viagra so safe that you can use it if you don’t have ED? You might be tempted to “borrow” a pill from a friend’s prescription just to try it. After all, if it helps men with ED get an erection, doesn’t it stand to reason it may help you get a stronger erection even if you don’t have ED? It’s not that simple. We talked to Seth Cohen, MD, a urologist at NYU Langone, to get his take. 

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Is it safe to use recreational Viagra?

“This is a little bit of a loaded question,” says Cohen.

First—and this is very important—you should talk with a healthcare provider before you start taking any medication. And when you talk with them, really talk honestly about your medical history and any other medications or supplements you’re currently taking. That will help your provider determine if Viagra is right (and safe) for you—it’s not safe for everyone. 

But when we talk about the recreational use of Viagra, what does that mean?

“If the average guy comes up to me and says, ‘Hey, if I just take a small dose of Viagra, is that going to do anything really negative to me?’ Nine times out of ten, the answer would be no,” says Cohen. “But if someone has a heart defect or he’s on other medications for high blood pressure, that could do some damage.” 
Viagra and other ED medications known as PDE5 inhibitors can be unsafe to take with certain medical conditions or medications, and taking it can cause complications (Harvard Health Publishing, 2019).

What if you don’t have medical issues? 

Okay, so taking Viagra for fun is a pretty bad idea if you have health issues or are taking other medications, but what if you know for sure you’re healthy and aren’t taking any medications? In general, erectile dysfunction drugs are safe to take if your heart is healthy and you aren’t on any other medications that would interact with them. 

Cohen says, “If we’re talking about someone relatively young, with no cardiac risk factors or other serious health conditions, who aren’t on other medications that interact with PDE5 inhibitors, then I would say at a low dose, Viagra is a reasonably innocuous medication that will just improve their erectile function.”

But if you’re interested in the recreational use of Viagra, Cohen says he’d be curious what you mean by “recreational.”

“If your sex life is good, why do you need to take Viagra?” he says. “People who ask for these medications are asking for a reason. Maybe they’re dealing with performance anxiety. When they masturbate, their penis is hard and everything’s easy to achieve and maintain, but when they’re in front of a partner, they prematurely ejaculate or lose their erection too quickly. That is a form of erectile dysfunction. There’s nothing wrong in their penis, but psychologically, there’s an issue.”

In most cases, according to Cohen, “guys who get Viagra from a friend or take it from their parents’ cabinet may call that ‘recreational use,’ but they may actually have erectile problems.” And since erectile dysfunction can be a sign of another health condition, it’s essential to get that checked out by a healthcare provider.  

Viagra as a party drug

Another level of recreational use involves taking Viagra along with other drugs for “chemsex,” or chemical sex, which describes using drugs in your sex life. This can be very unsafe, especially since these party drugs can interact with each other and Viagra in a dangerous way.

A good example of this is “poppers.” Commonly used on the club scene, “poppers” are small glass vials filled with a substance called amyl nitrite. When combined with Viagra, these drugs can cause a severe drop in blood pressure that, in the best-case scenario, will cause dizziness and, in the worst-case scenario, will cause death (Le, 2020). 

Similar drugs are used by healthcare professionals to treat heart conditions, so if you’re currently receiving treatment with nitrates, or you’ve ever been diagnosed with a heart-related condition in the past, it’s particularly crucial that you check with a healthcare provider before trying erectile dysfunction medications.

Viagra side effects

Viagra and other ED medications can have side effects including headache, facial flushing, nasal congestion, stomach upset, backache, and, rarely, temporary impaired color vision (men with the eye condition retinitis pigmentosa should check with their healthcare providers before using those prescriptions) (MedlinePlus, 2018).

If you’re interested in trying Viagra, or you suspect you might have ED, it really is a good idea to talk with a healthcare provider. That can be daunting because of the embarrassment factor, but there’s no reason to be embarrassed. Sexual function is just as important an aspect of men’s health as any other. And keep in mind that you’re not alone. Researchers estimate that around  30 million men in the U.S. have experienced erectile dysfunction (Nunes, 2012).

“Treat your body as best you can and take your health as a priority,” says Cohen. “Just like you would seek medical help for anything major, why not go to a professional and have ED treated professionally instead of taking these matters into your own hands?” 

Speak to a healthcare provider about your concerns so you can get treatment.

References

  1. Harvard Health Publishing. (2019). Are erectile dysfunction pills safe for men with heart disease? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/are-erectile-dysfunction-pills-safe-for-men-with-heart-disease
  2. Le, A., Yockey, A., & Palamar, J. J. (2020). Use of “Poppers” among Adults in the United States, 2015-2017. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 52(5), 433–439. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2020.1791373. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32669067/
  3. MedlinePlus. (2018). Sildenafil. NIH: National Library of Medicine. Retrieved on Jan. 17, 2022 from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a699015.html 
  4. Nunes, K. P., Labazi, H., & Webb, R. C. (2012). New insights into hypertension-associated erectile dysfunction. Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension, 21(2), 163–170. doi: 10.1097/mnh.0b013e32835021bd. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4004343/