July 20, 2012 -- Men who use erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs recreationally may be more likely to develop psychogenic ED, the type that originates in the mind, according to new research.
"Recreational use of ED medications increased the chance of psychological dependence on ED medicines,'' says researcher Christopher Harte, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the VA Boston Healthcare System.
"Among young, healthy men who used ED medicines recreationally, the more frequent ED medicine use was associated with lower confidence in achieving and maintaining erections, which in turn was associated with lower erectile function," Harte says.
The study is published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
The researchers found a link but not cause and effect, Harte tells WebMD.
However, another expert wonders if some of the men who reported ''recreational'' use actually had ED.
ED affects about 34 million men in the U.S., according to Harte.
The condition is more common with age. About 9% of men 18 to 39 are affected. Up to 70% of men 60 and older are.
However, men aged 18 to 45 are responsible for the largest increase in the use of Viagra among U.S. adults, Harte reports. From 1998 to 2002, the use by this age category grew 312%, he says.
For his study, Harte evaluated 1,207 men. Their average age was about 22.
72 were recreational users, reporting no diagnosis of ED from a doctor
1,111 were non-users of ED drugs
24 were prescribed the drugs and used them
The men completed an online survey. It asked about their sexual functioning in the past four weeks. They told whether they used ED drugs and how often.
They answered questions about their erectile function, orgasm, sexual desire, and their satisfaction with intercourse and overall sex.
They reported their levels of confidence in their ability to get and maintain an erection.
ED Drugs and ED: Study Results
Compared to non-users, recreational users reported lower erectile confidence and overall satisfaction.
The decreased confidence, in turn, was linked negatively with erectile functioning, he says.
Harte can't explain the link for sure. "It very well could be that recreational ED medication users may start having unreasonable standards or expectations about their erectile performance," he says.
That, in turn, could lead to men becoming overly sensitive about their performance and more dissatisfied, he says.
ED Drugs and ED: Perspective
The young men who were in the ''recreational'' category may actually have ED, says Irwin Goldstein, MD, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine and a physician at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego.
"For those people who did use it recreationally, perhaps the explanation is, they were too embarrassed to announce [to their doctor] they have a sexual health problem," he tells WebMD.