Is your sex life hurt by these common drugs?

For women, some meds may cause problems in the bedroom

Published: November 2013

If your sex life isn’t what it used to be, hormones, aging, or boredom in the bedroom might not be the problem; it could be the drugs you’re taking.

Some of the biggest sex-life killers are antidepressants, but common prescriptions such as blood pressure meds and even remedies such as Advil can cause problems too, as you’ll see below.


Side effects for women

Antianxiety drugs such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium) 

Decreased desire, vaginal dryness, trouble reaching orgasm
Antidepressants such as citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), venlafaxine (Effexor), duloxetine (Cymbalta) Decreased desire, reduced sensation or arousal, trouble reaching orgasm 
Antifungals such as ketoconazole (Nizoral) Decreased desire
Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl Allergy) Decreased desire, reduced sensation or arousal
Blood pressure drugs such as atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Lopressor), clonidine (Catapres), methyldopa (Aldomet), and diuretics Decreased desire
Heartburn drugs such as famotidine (Pepcid) and ranitidine (Zantac) Decreased desire
Muscle relaxers such as baclofen (Lioresal) Trouble reaching orgasm
Pain relievers such as aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve), oxycodone (Oxycontin), and hydrocodone (Vicodin) Vaginal dryness

Here's what you can do

Even if the likely cause of your sexual problems is a drug you’re taking, there are things you can do to try to get yourself back in the groove. In addition to considering the tips here, don’t be shy about having a frank talk about the issue with your doctor. You may have a health problem, such as sleep apnea or diabetes, that is affecting your sex drive.

  • Wait and see. Occasionally, sexual problems disappear as the body adjusts to a new drug. If a medication is working otherwise, it may be worth waiting a few months to see if things return to normal.
  • Get healthier. Lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising more, and quitting smoking can improve your overall health—so you might be able to stop taking a blood pressure drug or painkiller, for example.
  • Choose a different drug. The antidepressant bupropion (Wellbutrin and generic) and the blood pressure drug captopril (Capoten and generic) may carry a lower risk of sexual side effects than the others.
  • Cut back. With your doctor’s OK, try a lower dose of a drug you’re taking.
  • Time it right. A simple fix: Try taking your medication after sex rather than before.
  • Consider adding a drug. If all else fails, in some cases a doctor may prescribe a new drug along with the old one. For example, she might add bupropion (Wellbutrin) to your existing antidepressant therapy, prescribe estrogen pills, creams, inserts, or patches to help with dryness or heighten sensitivity, or even try sildenafil (Viagra; preliminary evidence suggests it might help women as well as men).
Editor's Note:

This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multi-state settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin). The aricle was adapted from ShopSmart magazine

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