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    Viagra Abuse Linked to Risky Sexual Behavior

    Recreational Use of Viagra Increases Risk of Sexually Transmitted Disease

    WebMD Health News

    May 26, 2005 -- Rising use and abuse of the impotence drug Viagra among men who have sex with men may dramatically increase their risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV infection.

    A new study shows that men who have sex with men and who use Viagra engage in unprotected sex up to six times more often than nonusers of the drug.

    In addition, researchers found that Viagra is increasingly being used as a recreational drug and mixed with drugs such as methamphetamine.

    Viagra is approved as a prescription drug to treat erectile dysfunction, but researchers say most of the men studied had no medical need for Viagra and obtained the drug without a doctor's prescription from a friend or off the Internet.

    Viagra Abuse Raises Risks

    In the study, which appears in the current issue of the American Journal of Medicine, researchers analyzed 14 recent studies of Viagra among men who have sex with men.

    Overall, the studies showed that more than 10% of men who have sex with men use Viagra. More than 40% of HIV-positive men reported using the drug.

    Compared with nonusers of the drug, researchers show men who have sex with men and who use Viagra are from two to nearly six times more likely to have unprotected anal sex with a male partner of unknown HIV status.

    Other findings include:

    • HIV-positive men were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with another sexually transmitted disease if they used Viagra compared with nonusers.
    • Men recently diagnosed with HIV were 2.5 times more likely to use Viagra than other men who have sex with men.
    • 54% of users mixed Viagra with other drugs to enhance the sexual experience, such as methamphetamines, ecstasy, and ketamine.

    New Warnings Needed for Viagra?

    Based on these results, researchers say the labeling for Viagra and other recently approved drugs in its class, including Cialis and Levitra, should be changed to warn users of an increased risk of STDs, including HIV infection.

    Although Viagra itself does not cause these infections, researchers say the increased duration of erection, increased blood flow to the penis, and subsequent sexual activity may increase the risk of acquiring these infections from an infected partner.

    In an editorial that accompanies the study, Joseph Alpert, MD, of the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center in Tucson, says abuse and recreational use of Viagra and other similar erectile dysfunction drugs could become a major public health problem in the U.S.

    He says more research is needed to determine if the risk of STDs and unsafe sex is higher in heterosexual men who use Viagra.

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