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Viagra Dependency: Can You Become Addicted to Viagra?

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 07/11/2019

Updated 04/01/2024

If you’ve considered using Viagra®, you may have wondered, “Is Viagra addictive?” As it turns out, one of the most common concerns that many men have about this erectile dysfunction (ED) medication is whether you can become dependent on Viagra.

The short answer is that, while it isn’t considered habit-forming, some men nevertheless develop a psychological Viagra dependency. However, this is a problem that you can avoid with preparation, so you don’t have to worry that if you take Viagra you will always need it.

Below, we’ll discuss Viagra tolerance and how to avoid problems with it down the road.

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Let’s make this clear: Sildenafil — the brand name for Viagra — is not an addictive or habit-forming medication. There is no pharmaceutical ingredient it contains that can make you become dependent on Viagra. However, you could start to rely on Viagra over time for the psychological comfort of knowing you can rely on it to work.

While many medications, prescription or not, can cause or contribute to physical dependence and addiction, Viagra is not among them. Sildenafil citrate (the active ingredient in Viagra) isn’t linked to physical addiction, meaning you won’t develop a physical dependence on it or develop withdrawal symptoms if you stop using it suddenly. Unlike some medications that cause physical dependence, Viagra doesn’t have any direct effect on the reward pathways inside your brain that can potentially trigger physical addiction or cause withdrawal symptoms.

This is also true of other oral medications for ED, such as tadalafil (the active ingredient in Cialis®), vardenafil (the active ingredient in Levitra®) and avanafil (sold as Stendra®). These ED meds, including Viagra, work by inhibiting the enzyme phosphodiesterase type 5, or PDE5, which restricts blood flow into the soft erectile tissues of your penis. By improving blood flow to your penis, medications like Viagra make it easier to get and keep an erection when you’re in the mood for sex.

Currently, there is no scientific evidence that sildenafil, tadalafil or any other medications used for the treatment of erectile dysfunction are physically addictive. The fact is, the vast majority of men who use Viagra for ED do so without developing any type of physical or psychological dependence.

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While Viagra isn’t physically addictive, people who use it could potentially become psychologically dependent on it for optimal sexual performance. This means that a person can be so used to using the medication that they fear they can’t function normally without it or believe it’s necessary to function normally. In men with moderate or severe ED, it could be true that Viagra is always necessary for an erection. But for men with mild ED or men without ED who use Viagra recreationally, they may psychologically feel like they always need the medication even if they really don’t.

Viagra is a medication that is FDA-approved to treat ED — it doesn’t typically cause ED. One way it could indirectly cause ED is if you experience a rare side effect called priapism, which is an erection lasting more than four hours that can be damaging to the penis. Untreated priapism can cause physical damage to the penis that might cause ED later on. So if you experience an erection that lasts more than four hours, it’s important to seek medical care immediately.

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The question of Viagra tolerance is one that doesn’t get a lot of attention, and in our opinion, that’s because there isn’t much danger — at least not when compared with illicit drugs.

There have been reports of tolerance to Viagra over time, but generally this is not considered to be common. It’s possible that any “tolerance” actually reflects a progression of the original cause(s) of erectile dysfunction and a worsening severity of ED that might require a higher dose of Viagra for treatment.

The most effective way to avoid Viagra dependency is to follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider and use Viagra or similar medications as recommended. When it’s used as prescribed, Viagra is a safe, effective and reliable medication, with little possibility that you could become dependent on Viagra.

Still worried over the question, 'if I take Viagra will I always need it'? Here are some general guidelines to follow (please don’t use this for tips on how to do it wrong):

  • Only use Viagra at the prescribed dose. Viagra comes in several different dosages, from 25mg to 100mg. The recommended starting dose is 50mg. Make sure to use the medication as prescribed by your healthcare provider. If you don’t experience any improvements from Viagra, or if you develop side effects at your prescribed dosage, talk to your healthcare provider about adjusting your dose.

  • Set realistic sexual performance expectations. You may face a greater risk of becoming psychologically dependent on Viagra if you create unrealistic expectations for yourself in bed, such as being able to always get a firm, lasting erection. It’s always best to communicate clearly with your partner so that both of you are on the same page, without any pressure or anxiety.

  • Only use Viagra if you think you need it. If you’re prescribed Viagra, you don’t necessarily need to take it every time you have sex. Try only taking Viagra or other ED drugs when you feel anxious or concerned about your sexual performance.

  • Limit the amount of porn you watch. Watching porn may negatively affect your sexual performance and affect your expectations from sex. In some cases, it may even result in a form of ED referred to as porn-induced erectile dysfunction. If you find it difficult to get and maintain an erection with your partner but you’re able to get hard while watching porn, try to limit the amount of pornography you watch.

  • Consider other treatment options for ED. Viagra is a highly effective treatment for ED, but it’s not the only treatment option available. Other options for managing ED include psychotherapy, pelvic floor exercises, vacuum constriction devices and surgical procedures. Used on their own or in combination with Viagra, other interventions can help you improve your erections and avoid relying solely on medication.

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Generally speaking, Viagra is not an addictive medication. When it’s used with a prescription at a normal dose, Viagra dependence isn’t something that you’ll typically need to worry about. Instead, focus on keeping the following takeaways in mind as you navigate through the world of safe Viagra use:

  • Erectile dysfunction is a very common issue that can affect men of all ages.

  • Viagra and similar medications treat ED by increasing blood flow to your penis.

  • There’s also no scientific evidence that Viagra and other ED medications can cause withdrawal symptoms if you stop using them abruptly.

  • Although Viagra may become psychologically addictive, there’s no evidence that using Viagra can lead to physical dependence or addiction.

If you think you have erectile dysfunction, help is available. We offer several FDA-approved ED medications online, including Viagra (and its generic sildenafil) and chewable ED medication, all of which are available following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

You can also learn more about treating ED in our guide to the most common erectile dysfunction treatments and drugs.

1 Source

  1. Reference ID: 3466301 - food and drug administration. (n.d.-e). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2014/20895s039s042lbl.pdf
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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]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

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. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

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.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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