Doctors warn against 'sextasy' craze

Aussie experts say users of ecstasy are combining the drug with Viagra in an attempt to amplify its "euphoric effects".
Photo / Thinkstock
Aussie experts say users of ecstasy are combining the drug with Viagra in an attempt to amplify its "euphoric effects". Photo / Thinkstock

Doctors are warning of the dangers Viagra abuse, where the drug is mixed with narcotics such as ecstacy to enhance a feeling of euphoria.

With sales of the drug rising by 25 per cent in the run up to Valentine's day, there are fears that abusing the drug could lead to potentially fatal consequences.

Scientists at the University of New South Wales in Sydney have identified a "sextasy" craze that's gaining popularity on the club scene.

They say that users of ecstasy are combining the drug with Viagra in an attempt to amplify its "euphoric effects".

The problem with this is that mixing the two drugs can trigger what's known as
"serotonin syndrome".

This is a potentially serious drug interaction that occurs when too much serotonin builds up in the body, say scientists from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Australia.

Although serotonin is often referred to as the 'happy hormone', too much of it can cause confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, tremors.

In severe cases it can result in seizures, an irregular heart beat or even a coma.

Viagra sales have risen year on year ever since it was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for prescription-only sale back in 1998.

But its users are no longer only elderly gentleman wanting to pharmaceutically enhance their performance between the sheets.

Used correctly, it's a welcome and safe form of pharmaceutical help

But it's the worrying trend of young men abusing the drug, and in some cases combining it with other lethal drugs and narcotics, that has health officials concerned about the long term mental health consequences as well as the more immediate physical dangers.

Instead, Viagra is now considered a 'party drug' among young men and is often mixed with a 'cocktail' of other drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy which health professionals warn could have long term or even immediately fatal consequences.

While each combination poses a different health risk, researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles are specifically concerned about the growing trend of combining Viagra with 'poppers' or amyl nitrate.

Both drugs serve to dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow - but combining them results in a sudden drop in blood pressure which can cause a stroke or heart attack.

Talking about this deadly combination Dr Marilyn K. Volker, Sexologist an Associate Fellow of The American Academy of Clinical Sexologists says: "Viagra and nitrates are never to be used together ... people have died from doing that".

But as well as the physical health risks, experts are also keen to warn the public of the mental effects too.

Raymond Francis, a psychosexual counsellor on Harley Street, says every month he treats about 15 young men - with an average age of 32 - who have become dependent on Viagra for improve their sexual performance.

"I think this is just a small sample of the problem. These men don't have any physical problems that would cause erectile difficulties," he said.

"Instead they feel they need it because they are putting too many expectations on themselves."

Francis, like many experts, believes some of his male patients are negatively influenced by their exposure to Internet pornography.

Theorising that like men who are exposed to pornography early in life who then acquire a dependence on pornographic imagery for sexual stimulation, young Viagra users may also develop a kind of dependence on this little blue pill.

A theory supported by scientists at the University of Texas at Austin.

They took 1,207 sexually active males and examined the erectile function characteristics and 'sexual confidence' among recreational users of Viagra, prescribed users of Viagra and nonusers of Viagra.

After completing the survey they discovered users of Viagra "reported lower erectile confidence and lower overall satisfaction compared with nonusers."

Concluding their results support the "possibility that recreational erectile dysfunction medication use among healthy young men may lead to psychogenic erectile dysfunction."

So are there safer and more natural alternatives? Both science and the rise in sales on specific libido boosting foods, minerals and amino acids suggest there is.

Firstly, research from Wayne State University School of Medicine supports the age-old claim that oysters and mussels are an aphrodisiac.

They found their high concentration of the mineral zinc 'may play an important role in modulating serum testosterone (the make sex hormone) levels in normal men.'

And scientists from at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Centre found that taking the amino acid L Arginine in high doses caused a "significant subjective improvement in sexual function in men."

Shown to increase blood flow, it works in a similar way to Viagra, says Nick Smith, co-founder of The Protein Works.

He adds that sales of Arginine increase by 30 per cent every year in the week before Valentine's Day.

"Since it's a very specific product, the annual spike is a clear indication people are well aware of its other sexual benefits."

Mr Smith adds that sales of a relatively unknown, naturally occurring amino acid - D Apartic Acid - soared after Italian research found it boosted testosterone in men.

"Interestingly, it wasn't just athletes using the supplement - is was just regular guys seeking a more natural and safer alternative to boost their testosterone," he said.

- DAILY MAIL

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