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10 May 2006
High Level Of Erectile Medication Use In Young Men Surprises Experts
by George Atkinson

A survey carried out by researchers from Children's Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine has uncovered some disturbing trends in the use of erectile dysfunction (ED) medications by young men. The researchers surveyed men aged between 18 and 25 on the campuses of three universities in Chicago and found that a significant number of them had used erectile dysfunction medications such as Viagra™ - many in conjunction with other recreational drugs, and most without doctor consultation.

The survey showed that around 13 percent of the men reported experiencing ED (defined as difficulty getting or keeping an erection), but more surprisingly, 25 percent reported ED occurring with condom use (EDwC).

"Participants with EDwC were 4 times more likely to use condoms inconsistently, and 5 times more likely to have multiple sex partners in the last year, suggesting that EDwC may represent a barrier to safer sex and play a role in STI [sexually transmitted infection] transmission," said Robert Garofalo, of Children's Memorial Hospital.

Overall, 6 percent of the surveyed men had used erectile dysfunction medications. Of these, 29 percent used them to enhance sexual performance and 64 percent of users mixed the erectile medication with alcohol or illicit drugs. "Particularly concerning is mixing Viagra™ and other erectile dysfunction medications with alcohol and drugs, such as ecstasy or methamphetamine," said lead researcher Najah Musacchio. "Such drugs boost sex drive and reduce inhibitions, yet impair sexual performance. [Their] use may permit men in altered mental and physical states to engage in unsafe sexual behaviors, creating concern for unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections." Musacchio's concerns are reinforced by past studies of adult men who have sex with men, that found Viagra™ use to be associated with risky sexual practices.

Another concern was that the men in the survey usually didn't get the medication from their doctor. Most of the men got the medication from their friends, or other non-medical sources such as the Internet.

The researchers said that given the association between ED and negative health outcomes such as depression and sexual dissatisfaction, doctors should ask adolescent males about ED and counsel them on the potential health risks of erectile dysfunction medication and substance use. They added that doctors should specifically inquire about EDwC, stressing the importance of using condoms with all sexual encounters. "The topic must be addressed," Musacchio said. "Data indicates that ED and erectile dysfunction medication use is not uncommon in young males. It should be openly discussed, especially since it can lead to unsafe sex and other health risks."

Based on material from the Children's Memorial Hospital, Northwestern University




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