Except for the drink fridges and the candy aisle, a pharmacy and a gas station don’t have much in common. And as you might imagine, if you’re looking for safe medications, one is clearly preferable over the other.
If you’re experiencing some sexual performance issues at the moment, you might have considered male enhancement pills a solution worth paying inside for, but we’re here to tell you that over-the-counter sex pills aren't ED medications like Viagra that are considered safe and effective.
Do gas station sex pills work? Sometimes, potentially.
But these male enhancement dietary supplements are not FDA-approved erectile dysfunction drugs, and the best gas station sex pills may be the worst choice you can make for your health, for a few reasons:
They contain natural ingredients that lack rigorous research support
A lack of approval, oversight and safety standards from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
They sometimes illegally contain ingredients that aren’t mentioned on their label.
Wondering why you should prioritize the kind of ED meds that a urologist or other healthcare professional can prescribe instead? Read on. But first, a primer.
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Some of the gas station sexual enhancement products on the market today have built themselves decent brand recognition as so-called over-the-counter sex pills. ED, PE and whatever else you’re struggling with — these products claim to solve (and enhance) everything.
A few of the enhancement supplements include:
There may be eleven more on retailers’ shelves by the time you read this, such as the Stree Overlord® pill.
Even the FDA has trouble keeping up with the number of products on shelves, and most of them lack much scientific backing. Here are some info highlights about the most common ingredients in these mystery penis packs:
Horny goat weed (also called epimedium) has been shown to provide small benefits to erectile dysfunction in testing on animals due to an ingredient, icariin. But there are no significant human studies showing whether or not these effects can translate to people.
Nizagara contains ingredients like L-arginine, red berry, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid, which have occasionally been linked to ED health benefits. Unfortunately, Nizagara contains an unlabeled ingredient, too: Viagra’s active ingredient, sildenafil.
There’s not much to substantiate any of the claims about these products, and none of them have been tested in humans at scale or approved by the FDA for use as an ED treatment.
Are these things safe? No, not even remotely.
Not only is there limited medical rigor attached to their claims (unlike the FDA-approved stuff), but compared with established prescription drugs, they’re decades behind in terms of testing. That has led to shoddy claims, inaccurate labeling and even the illegal inclusion of prescription medications.
In 2013, the Pharmacognosy Review concluded, “Due to unavailability of the safety data, unclear mechanisms, and lack of knowledge to support the extensive use of these substances, uses of these products may be risky to the human being.”
In 2015 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a public notification to consumers that products marketed as “Herb Viagra” aren’t safe. The reason? These convenience store herbal supplements actually contained sildenafil, the active ingredient in the real version of Viagra, which is both illegal to do and not disclosed in the ingredients list.
Yes, sildenafil is technically the ingredient you want if you have ED. But you don’t want it in unmonitored, random doses. Gas station pills with sildenafil sound great until you realize that the dosing is not measured rigorously, making it a particularly risky sort of roulette to play with your erectile health.
And this was just one of many cases in which unlabeled ingredients were found in similar products — enough to remove many of the ones you would have seen on shelves a decade ago and replace them with new ones.
Does gas station Viagra, sometimes-called “gas station boner pills” or “gas station dick pills” work for ED work? There seems to be no reliable information indicating they do, except in cases where these pills illegally contain any amount of actual sildenafil.
But, as we said above, Viagra is only truly safe and effective when prescribed at the dose you need for your ED.
The same active ingredients as Viagra®. Starts working in 30 minutes and lasts up to 6 hours.
Same active ingredient as Cialis®. Starts working in 1 hour and lasts up to 24 hours.
Exclusively at Hims, starts working in 15 minutes and lasts up to 6 hours. Same active ingredients as Levitra®.
What gas station penis pills lack in scientific backing for their benefits, they more than make up for in risks and side effects.
Seriously, look at the side effects of just a few of the “natural ingredients” commonly found in ED supplements:
Yohimbine can cause insomnia, hypertension and sweating.
Ginseng can cause constipation and rash, and can be dangerous for people with diabetes.
Ginkgo biloba can cause seizures in rare cases.
L-arginine researchers actually stopped a study early because six people (six!) died, compared with zero in the placebo group, when researching it in heart attack survivors.
That’s the stuff that’s supposed to be in these pills. Read that again.
And don’t forget that some of these supplements can cause a variety of symptoms like headaches and blood pressure fluctuations similar to those experienced with improperly dosed prescription ED medications — in some cases, because they illegally contain improperly dosed ED medications.
Tainted sexual enhancement products can potentially lead to heart attack — not a cheap evening of consequence-free, better sex.
Medication for erectile dysfunction should always be prescribed by a trained and certified healthcare professional.
A healthcare professional is going to direct you to safe and effective medications called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. PDE5 inhibitors keep you hard by keeping the blood vessels in your penis dilated and your corpora cavernosa engorged.
There are several types you may have heard of:
Vardenafil (active ingredient of Levitra®) like Viagra, is also used at least 60 minutes before sex, but tends to last a little longer.
Several of these have been used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension in the past (and still are), so if you’re currently receiving other blood pressure treatments, you’ll want to let your healthcare provider know.
ED is a fairly common health condition associated with heart disease, high blood pressure and blood flow. It affects an estimated 30 million to 50 million men nationally. That’s one in four guys, so it’s nothing to be embarrassed about — certainly nothing that makes you anything but normal.
We get that some men feel self-conscious about ED, but if you’re buying a gas station pill to avoid going to the doctor, just go to the doctor. Similar to Spanish fly and other proclaimed effective, alternative treatments for ED, these products are all flash and no substance. In fact, they could be dangerous, too.
Embarrassment is a ground-level problem though, so let us give you some perspective:
A healthcare professional will be much less judgmental than the people in line behind you, and you won’t have to buy a Snickers® to disguise your purchase.
Healthcare providers can give you tailored medical advice, which is the most direct route to safe and effective treatment.
You may end up with a different medication altogether, which is fine. Just make sure that it’s safe and effective.
Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!
Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years in digital health focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show and Sharecare and has served on the Medical Expert Board of Eat This, Not That!.
Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.
Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs.
In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information
Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.
Bachelor of Arts, Egyptian and Ancient Western Asian Archaeology. Brown University |
Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist. Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs
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