When we think of sexual performance enhancing pills, we often think of old men who need to drink a few before getting their groove on, usually with a young, perky bombshell they would like to impress.
But when former basketball star and Khloe Kardashian’s ex Lamar Odom was recently hospitalised from an alleged drug cocktail, the world was shocked to learn that the cocktail included a form of Viagra, a sexual performance booster.
Most people were surprised as to why Odom, who is 38, would even need to take sexual enhancing tablets as most people assume that in his 30s, he is at his sexual peak.
But, according to medical website Viamedic, the 2015 research conducted by Dr Robert Garafolo, the director of youth services at the Howard Brown Health Centre in Chicago, found that more and more young men are gulping performance enhancing tablets, to the point of faking erectile dysfunction symptoms in order to get a prescription.
What is the harm in young men taking these pills?
Professor Shingai Mutambirwa, chairman of the urology division at the Dr George Mukhari Academic Hospital and Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, took us through the nitty gritty of how the pills work, and delivers his verdict on whether or not they are safe.
He says, firstly, it is important to understand what happens when a man gets an erection in order to understand how the pills work.
“When a man gets an erection, it is solely an increase in blood flow into the spongy tissues of the penis called the corpora cavernosa. To do this from sexual stimulation, a nerve signal has to come from the brain to the lower spine, which releases a chemical called nitric oxide into the blood vessels, thus increasing blood flow into the corpora cavernosa.
“The body naturally has to limit the amount of cyclic guanosine monophosphate, a chemical released during sexual arousal, and this is done by the help of a natural enzyme in the body called phosphodiesterase.
“So, when a man takes a sexual performance enhancing drug, all the pills are doing is stopping the guanosine monophosphate from being broken down naturally by the enzyme phosphodiesterase, which then enhances the normal erection.”
Mutambirwa says there are three reasons why young men are attracted to sexual performance enhancement pills, which are:
However, he says that there is normally no need for young men to take sexual performance enhancing tablets, as most young people have a healthy sex life, and that the pills may be rendered redundant.
“Generally, young men have normal erectile function, so the enhancers would only work if their guanosine monophosphate is not functioning normally, as in the cases of diabetes or old age.”
Mutambirwa does caution that taking enhancers may lead to psychological addiction and dependency, thus interfering with normal sexual function.
He also says that young people should be careful of enhancers that supplement their testosterone, as it can lead to their levels of testosterone being higher than normal, and can result in decreased fertility, shrinking of the penis and testicles, plus other issues such as severe acne and aggression levels.
So, is there an age to start taking sexual performance enhancers? “… if you do not have any sexual problems with erectile dysfunction or low libido, just relax and enjoy sex naturally. There really is no need for enhancers,” Mutambirwa says.