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How Long Does Viagra (Sildenafil) Stay In Your System?

Katelyn Hagerty

Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Rachel Sacks

Published 03/07/2021

Updated 10/20/2023

A big thanks to modern medicine — if you’re one of the 30 million men who deal with erectile dysfunction, you have a variety of choices when it comes to treatments.

Of course, one of the most well-known FDA-approved options is a little blue pill with the active ingredient sildenafil citrate, which you probably know as the brand name Viagra®.

Viagra was originally designed as a blood pressure medication for people trying to avoid chest pain, but the discovery of what Viagra does for ED was a game-changer.

Sildenafil is a type of prescription medication known as a PDE5 inhibitor, all of which help you achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual activity. These medications block the enzyme phosphodiesterase-5 (that’s where PDE5 comes from), which helps widen your blood vessels and allows more blood flow to the penis — a necessary step of the process of getting an erection.

But if you’re considering taking Viagra or sildenafil for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, you might be curious about how this drug interacts with your body. Namely, how long does Viagra stay in your system?

Okay, maybe you’re not wondering that exactly. But it’s always good to be as informed as possible when starting a new medication. And at the very least, you probably want to know how long a medication like Viagra takes to work, which is a related question. Because nothing kills the mood like wondering how much longer your ED treatment will last.

So no need to search “sildenafil 100 mg how long does it last” — the answers to that and all your questions about how long Viagra stays in your system are just below.

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How Long Does Viagra Stay In Your System?

Maybe you’re debating if you should take your sildenafil dose the morning of your date, or you’re trying to be discreet and not take your dose of Viagra during dinner. Situations like these can leave you wondering how long sildenafil lasts.

Or, if you want to look at it a bit more scientifically, how long does sildenafil stay in your system?

The half-life of sildenafil is four hours. This simply means that the active amount of Viagra in your body reduces by around half after four hours.

Another way of explaining this is that most men affected by erectile dysfunction who use Viagra are able to get and maintain an erection without any issues for approximately four hours after taking this medication.

Exactly how long Viagra lasts can depend on a number of factors like weight, medical conditions and more. Depending on these factors, a person might experience the effects of Viagra for three to five hours, which means that you may be able to get an erection during that time with sexual stimulation.

But one erection shouldn’t last past a certain amount of time. If you find yourself with an erection lasting for four or more continuous hours — a condition called priapism — you should seek medical advice from a healthcare professional immediately.

Factors That Affect How Long Sildenafil Stays In Your System

Since sildenafil works with sexual stimulation to produce an erection, the factors that affect how long the drug stays in your system also play a role in erectile quality. Let’s take a look at them.

Dosage of Viagra

Viagra for erectile dysfunction comes in multiple dosages, ranging from 25mg to 100mg — although there are also 20mg doses available for a condition called pulmonary hypertension — and the most common dosage of sildenafil is 50mg.

Generally, your Viagra dosage doesn’t change the half-life or how long the drug stays in your system.

Here’s a reminder for those of you who like making bad decisions: taking a higher dose won’t make you last any longer — though it could cause low blood pressure and potentially cause a heart attack — so don’t up your dosage to try to last all night.

Instead, a higher dosage may cause you to experience more side effects of Viagra, including headache, flushing, nasal congestion, back pain, nausea or dizziness.

Age

While sildenafil has been found to be effective in men over the age of 65 — an important takeaway as 45 percent of men ages 65 to 69 have moderate erectile dysfunction — it’s a double-edged sword, as age can have an impact on your body’s ability to absorb medication.

If you’re older than 65 years old, it may take longer for Viagra to start working. It may also be broken down more slowly, so it can take longer to exit your body.

Diet

Eating a large meal, particularly a high-fat meal, can slow down your body’s absorption of sildenafil. This can prevent it from working quickly, as well as affect how significant the effects of the drug will be. It may also extend the length of time for which sildenafil keeps working.

On the flip side, taking the medication on an empty stomach may make it work faster.

There are a few other foods to avoid with Viagra, like grapefruit or alcohol.

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Alcohol

Maybe an extra glass of wine or a shot of tequila helps get you in the mood. But too much alcohol could also mess with your Viagra dose.

Alcohol consumption, specifically binge drinking, can lead to adverse effects like an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) and high blood pressure (hypertension), as well as affect your sexual function.

Long-term alcohol consumption can increase the risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction, thanks to its effects on your cardiovascular health (remember, blood flow is an important part of getting an erection).

You can still enjoy a cocktail or two — which is the recommended daily limit for men — if you’re also taking ED medication. However, mixing lots of alcohol and Viagra could lessen the effects of sildenafil and increase the risk of side effects.

Medications

Another not-so-fun warning about many medications, including sildenafil, is drug interactions.

Sildenafil interactions include antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, antiandrogens, nitrates and others. These medications can not only make ED symptoms more severe, but can also affect the amount of time that sildenafil works.

Psychological State

Your mental state could also affect your sexual function, which in turn affects Viagra’s effectiveness.

Several psychological causes of ED could make treatment less effective. These can include stress, depression or even sexual performance anxiety if you’re caught in a vicious cycle of worrying whether you’ll be able to rise to the occasion.

If you’re dealing with anxiety or other mental health conditions, online therapy could help to identify and reduce your worries.

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How Long Does Viagra Take to Work?

You don’t have to just rely on name brand recognition to know that sildenafil works — clinical trials showed that 63 percent, 74 percent and 82 percent of patients had improved erections after taking 25mg, 50mg and 100mg doses, respectively.

Viagra has been found to reach its highest concentration anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes. Specifically, one small study of 33 men found that 100mg of sildenafil produced an erection within 30 minutes for most of the men, and as fast as 12 minutes in some.

But despite the rave reviews and scientific evidence, what do you do if Viagra doesn't work? There can be a few reasons why Viagra’s not working for you — if you’re not sexually stimulated, if you ate a high-fat meal or drank too much or if you’re exceptionally nervous or anxious.

Start by narrowing down the possibilities to make the necessary changes or talk to your healthcare provider for more insight.

When to Take Viagra

We know you can’t always plan how the evening will go, but if you can, you should plan to take Viagra one hour before any sexual activity.

And although Viagra tends to last an average of four hours, there are options for longer-lasting ED medication, such as Cialis® and tadalafil (generic for Cialis). How long tadalafil lasts depends on dosage and usage, but on average a single dose can be effective for up to 36 hours.

If you plan to stick with sildenafil or want to give it a try, be sure to check out this guide on how to take Viagra for the best results.

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How Long Does Viagra Stay In Your System? Takeaways

Viagra is a miracle worker for many men. It’s widely known to help reduce erectile dysfunction, which has made it one of the most popular erectile dysfunction treatments available. But how long does sildenafil stay in your system?

  • Sildenafil, which is both the active ingredient in Viagra and a generic version of this medication, is a PDE5 inhibitor that helps increase blood flow to the penis, allowing for firmer and longer-lasting erections.

  • The half-life of Viagra is, on average, four hours. This means the drug is reduced by half after this amount of time, and that the effects last for four hours on average.

  • Several factors can affect how long sildenafil stays in your system, including age, diet, alcohol consumption, medications and your mental health. Coincidentally, many of these factors also affect your sexual function and are linked to ED.

Viagra and sildenafil are just two options for erectile dysfunction medications. Along with Cialis (tadalafil), Stendra® (avanafil) and Levitra® (vardenafil) are two other common choices. Hims also offers hard mints available as convenient chewable ED meds.

10 Sources

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  2. Smith, B.P., Babos, M. Sildenafil. [Updated 2023 Feb 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK558978/
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  5. Wagner, G., Montorsi, F., Auerbach, S., & Collins, M. (2001). Sildenafil Citrate (VIAGRA®) Improves Erectile Function in Elderly Patients With Erectile Dysfunction: A Subgroup Analysis. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, 56(2), M113-M119. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/56/2/M113/563357
  6. As You Age: You and Your Medicines. (2019, February 19). FDA. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/information-consumers-and-patients-drugs/you-age-you-and-your-medicines
  7. Piano M. R. (2017). Alcohol's Effects on the Cardiovascular System. Alcohol research : current reviews, 38(2), 219–241. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513687/
  8. Jiann, B. (2010). Effect of Alcohol Consumption on the Risk of Erectile Dysfunction. Urological Science, 21(4), 163-168. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1879522610600371
  9. Facts about moderate drinking. (n.d.). CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm
  10. Eardley, I., Ellis, P., Boolell, M., & Wulff, M. (2002). Onset and duration of action of sildenafil for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 53 Suppl 1(Suppl 1), 61S–65S. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1874251/
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