Sex, love and Viagra

Unknown Author

Viagra is designed to stir the blood when it comes to sex, but now research suggests that the little blue pill may also increase the release of a feel-good hormone that helps you fall in love

The study, published in the Journal of Physiology, found that Viagra (sildenafil) boosts the amount of the hormone oxytocin released by the pituitary gland in the brain. Oxytocin, sometimes known as the ‘cuddle hormone’, is believed to promote romantic feelings and is important in couple bonding. It is also released by both sexes during orgasm and plays an essential role in childbirth, breastfeeding and social interaction.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison measured the amount of oxytocin released from rat pituitaries in response to neural stimulation. When treated with Viagra the pituitaries released three times as much oxytocin as they did without the drug. Interestingly the drug had little effect if there was no neural stimulation.

"Erectile dysfunction drugs do not induce erections spontaneously, they enhance the response to sexual stimulation," says Professor Meyer Jackson, author of the study. "The same thing is happening in the posterior pituitary - Viagra will not induce the release of oxytocin on its own, but will enhance the amount of release you get in response to stimulation."

Jackson cautions that Viagra is not going to make you fall in love if there are no feelings there to start with, but it may help to get those ‘cuddle chemicals’ pumping once the spark of love has been ignited.

This study is the first to suggest that erectile dysfunction drugs are doing more for your love life than simply increasing blood flow to the sexual organs.

The research raises the question whether drugs like Viagra could have other uses, perhaps promoting social bonding.

"This is one piece in a puzzle in which many pieces are still not available," says Jackson, "But it raises the possibility that erectile dysfunction drugs could be doing more than just affecting erectile dysfunction."

However the doctors caution against the casual use of Viagra. Although the drug has a good safety record it is important to discuss the health issues with your doctor before you take it. You should avoid the drug if you are on medication containing nitrates (like nitroglycerin for chest pain). There are also various side effects including headaches, stomach problems and blurred vision which are a problem for some men. Lower doses may be recommended for men over 65.

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