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Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll

 The phrase “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” was first used in a Life magazine article in 1969, and for over 50 years now, we’ve held up this idea as the epitome of carefree fun and carnal pleasure. For now, we’re going to leave out the rock ‘n’ roll part, and we’re going to take a closer look at the sex and drugs part. Do sex and drugs really pair well together? Do you really need sexual performance drugs (prescribed, illicit or otherwise) to feel like a rock star in the bedroom?

The short answer to this is no. A study done in 1991 found that a significant number of commercially available drugs was apt to induce sexual dysfunction by disrupting all three neurophysiologic phases of sexual response – desire, excitement and orgasm. This was especially true for men, with loss of libido and impotence presenting as the most common symptoms, followed by failure to ejaculate. These results were consistent with a wide range of drugs, including common over-the-counter medications, prescriptions to treat high blood pressure, hormonal drugs and illegal psychoactive drugs.

But what about pot, ecstasy and cocaine? What about chemsex? What about Viagra for heaven’s sake? If you’re playing your X-rated highlight reel in your head and you’re remembering a few epic drug-fueled romps, you’re not alone. The relationship between sex and drugs is complex and while there may be scientific data out there that show that drugs affect sex negatively, there are also scientific studies as well as anecdotal evidence that these poor outcomes and negative side effects do not always occur. Let’s look at a few drugs in particular to see how their use during sex often plays out in the real world.

Common Drugs Used for Sex

In 2013, the Global Drug Survey collected data on sex and drug use from 22,289 people in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe. This was a groundbreaking study in the form of an online survey that asked respondents what drugs they used before having sex, how often they used drugs to enhance sex, and how the different drugs they used affected the different aspects of their sexual experiences.

What it found was that alcohol was the most commonly used drug during sex with about 58.5% of men and 60.4% of women reporting sexual activity after drinking. Marijuana had the next highest percentages with 37% of men and 26.3% of women reporting sex after smoking pot. In third place was MDMA with 15.5% of both men and women reporting use before sex. And in last place was cocaine with 10.2% of men and 9.7% of women doing cocaine before doing the deed. 

A researcher named Will Lawn, Ph.D., led a team of researchers to analyze the data collected in this survey. Out of the four main drugs studied, MDMA was the only substance that was consistently reported to enhance sex for respondents even though it only ranked in as the third most-used drug. They found that marijuana and cocaine also were reported to have positive impacts on sexual experience although to a lesser degree than MDMA. 

The drugs studied in the Global Drug Survey were by no means an exhaustive list. For example, with those who routinely use drugs in their sex lives (a practice that’s also called chemsex), methamphetamine, mephedrone and GHB or GBL tend to be the most widely used drugs. Chemsex gained popularity among men who have sex with men, but it has become more common in the general population in recent years. 

Dangers and Side Effects

If these drugs sound scary to you, it’s because they are! Methamphetamines can rapidly increase dopamine in the brain causing a temporary but intense feeling of euphoria and energy. Because of this, meth and mephedrone are highly addictive and can cause paranoia, hallucinations, changes in the heart and brain, high blood pressure, mood disorders, overdoses and death. GHB and GBL also carry a high risk of overdose. Not to mention, they’re often known as “date-rape drugs” because they can cause a person to easily fall into unconsciousness.

MDMA has its own set of side effects as well. People take MDMA before sex because it can enhance sensory perception and increase feelings of well-being and love for others. However, MDMA can also cause high blood pressure, panic attacks, loss of consciousness, seizures and in rare cases, death. Even marijuana has its own laundry list of side effects, including dizziness, nausea, increased heart rate, hallucinations and dry mouth. Marijuana can also lead to erectile dysfunction or ED, which is decidedly not a plus if you’re looking to improve your sex game.

And last but not least, alcohol, the most popular drug to consume before sex, has a long and well-documented history of dangers, including alcoholism, heart problems, liver disease, pancreatitis, cancer and death. Alcohol also interferes with the signals going from the brain to the genitals making it harder to have an orgasm. Long-term sexual side effects can range from lowered sex drive and fertility issues to shrinking of the testes and penis!

Prescription Drugs

For those people out there who are experiencing sexual dysfunction and are looking for safe and effective drugs to restore pleasure and satisfaction in their sex lives, there are many options on the market. An estimated 30 million men in the United States alone suffer from some type of erectile dysfunction. ED is often treated with a group of sexual performance drugs known as phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors, which block enzyme activity that can lead to ED.

Of the PDE5 inhibitors out there, the most well-known and popular are Viagra and Cialis. Both are oral pills that can be taken about 30 minutes before sex. There are also medications that can be injected directly into the penis although these are less popular for obvious reasons.  

Testosterone is also commonly administered to increase sexual function and sex drive. Both men and women produce testosterone although testosterone production is much higher for men. Testosterone also decreases with age, so it’s natural for your levels to fall as you get older. However, if you’re experiencing ED and your testosterone levels are determined to be low, you may be given testosterone therapy in the form of a cream, a gel, a patch, an oral pill, a pellet implant or an injection.  

In recent years, more drugs have been developed and tested for the treatment of sexual dysfunction in women, including testosterone therapy. For example, Addyi is a daily pill that can increase levels of sexual desire for some women, and Vyleesi is an injection that has been shown to increase libido in premenopausal women when administered in the belly or the thigh before sexual activity. Localized estrogen therapy is also available in different forms to improve the elasticity, blood flow and lubrication of the vagina. With women increasingly becoming more vocal in their demand for sexual dysfunction treatments, you can expect this pharmaceutical sector to keep growing in the future.

Sober is Sexy

No matter how amazing you think your drug of choice makes your sexy-time activities, the momentary euphoria and intoxication may not be worth the risks. When it comes to the illicit drugs we’ve mentioned above, there is no safe dosage established and the threshold for harm can vary greatly from person to person depending on overall health, underlying conditions and drug interactions. There are even side effects to take into consideration with the legal prescription drugs we named. For example, men with certain heart conditions may not be able to take Viagra and similar sexual performance drugs because of potential cardiovascular risks.

We’d also be remiss if we didn’t discuss the issues of consent, rape, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STI). Being inebriated with any substance increases your chances of becoming a victim of assault. Those who aren’t in control of their faculties cannot actively consent to sexual acts nor do they have the capacity to make good decisions and exercise good judgement, including taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves and others against getting pregnant or contracting STI. 

We get it. Drugs can be fun, and as they found in the Global Sex Survey, negative outcomes from drugs and sex are not inevitable. However, if your favorite sexual aide is a controlled substance, I challenge you to ditch the drugs and give sober sex a try. Not only will you lower your risks of sexual assault, physical harm and sexual dysfunction, but you will also increase your chances of experiencing a heightened sense of arousal, more intense physical pleasure and a deeper, more meaningful connection with your partner. What could be more rock ‘n’ roll than that?