Many young men are going for a "lift"

April 30, 2006

A first-ever survey suggests that erectile dysfunction (ED) is acommon problem in adolescent males. In a Chicago survey of 302 menbetween 18 to 25 years of age, 13% reported ED and 25% reported EDwhile putting on a condom. Among the same group, 6% reported usingsildenafil (Viagra) or some other ED medication, most often inconjunction with recreational drugs.

A first-ever survey suggests that erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common problem in adolescent males. In a Chicago survey of 302 men between 18 to 25 years of age, 13% reported ED and 25% reported ED while putting on a condom. Among the same group, 6% reported using sildenafil (Viagra) or some other ED medication, most often in conjunction with recreational drugs.

"ED in this survey was self-reported, so it is almost certainly underreported," said lead author Najah Musacchio, MD, of Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago, at the PAS Annual Meeting today. "ED is more common in young men than previously reported and so is ED medication use. We should be concerned that a substantial number of men are using these products in conjunction with recreational drugs."

Dr. Musacchio's group interviewed young men at random in public areas in Chicago. Mean age of subjects was 20 years. The group was 66% white, 12% Asian, 10% African-American, and 8% Latino; 95% were heterosexual. Most of the men (83%) reported having more than one sexual partner in the past year.

Thirteen percent of the men also reported at least one episode of ED in the past year. A quarter of the respondents reported ED while putting on a condom, with some overlap between the two groups. Only 6% of men reported using an ED medication, but within that group, 64% mixed an ED drug with recreational drugs such as alcohol, marijuana, GBH, methamphetamine, and cocaine.

More than one third (36%) mixed ED drugs with multiple recreational drugs. Twenty-nine percent reported using an ED drug to enhance performance, and 57% said they used ED meds to self-treat ED. Only 8% reported obtaining ED drugs from a medical provider. The remainder obtained the drugs from friends or other sources, such as the Internet.

ED medication use in younger men should probably not be a surprise, Dr. Musacchio said. Drug makers are marketing their ED products to an increasingly younger audience. She pointed to Cialis (tadalafil) as an official sponsor of the National Football League as an example.

"It is particularly worrying that so many young men are mixing Viagra and other ED medications with alcohol and other recreational drugs," Dr. Musacchio said. "These drugs boost sex drive and reduce inhibitions but impair sexual performance. The combination may encourage men to engage in unsafe sexual behavior."

In general, Dr. Musacchio reported, ED medication use was associated with older age, at least one prior STD, and more than five sexual partners in the past year. There was no racial association with ED drug use, but men having sex with men were more likely to use ED products than men having sex with women.

"Providers should ask their adolescent patients about ED, and about ED with condom use, because of the potential for depression, anxiety, and decreased quality of life," Dr. Musacchio said. "Men are not bringing it up themselves because of embarrassment. When you are asking kids about drug use, you should be adding Viagra and other ED drugs to the list."