Drugs and Desire: Accidental Libido Killers
Shakespeare famously wrote that drink "provokes the desire but inhibits the performance". This is true for both men and women. But while we've all heard the term whisky-d**k for men who have over-indulged, there isn't an equivalent term for women. Because our libido isn't visibly affected, the side effects that booze and many common drugs may have on women's libido may not dealt with or talked about as often.
For women, even if drinking makes us feel more amorous (or just peels away some of our every day inhibitions and dulls a bit of the every day stress), it makes achieving orgasm more difficult. Not only is ease of climax affected, but drinking often causes dryness for a woman, even when she is aroused. You know that dry mouth you get from drinking? Yeah, it affects the rest of your body the same way.
Now I'm not saying you should forgo that glass or Merlot, or skip the happy hour Martini, but moderation will definitely benefit you in the bedroom! It's not just drink that can affect your ability to achieve orgasm, or even arousal. In addition to booze there are many drugs (both prescription and "recreational"), and even some herbs that can have the same deleterious effect on love-making. Sexual response has 3 stages; desire (psychological), arousal (physical), and orgasm (also physical). Anything that interrupts your sexual response at any of these 3 stages can really set you up for a case of the bedroom miseries.
We're going to cover a few of the common substances that can seriously affect your libido here, but before you read any further we just need to say, we're not doctors and we don't even play them on TV. This is totally not medical advice, and you should have a discussion about any of this stuff with your doctor if it affects you. Ok? Cool, then keep reading for more substances that can unintentionally lessen the libido.
Common Prescription Drugs
Birth Control: There is a little joke we make at Scarlet Girl - the reason hormonal birth control works so well is that it just kills the desire to have sex! Now, this isn't strictly true, but it is well known that The Pill, The Ring, and even The Shot are great for pregnancy prevention, but many women also report lower libido levels, and sometimes dryness (which can make sex uncomfortable), as a side effect.
There are so many different options today, that you and your doc can tweak things until you find the option that works best for you.
Anti-depressants: They can even you out, and really improve your quality of life; even bring back a previously absent libido in some cases. However they can also kill your sex drive (this is true for men and women). Like hormonal birth control though, you have many options in both drug types and doses, so discussing this side effect with your doctor can go a long way toward finding the right medication and dose to achieve the results you want.
Sedatives: Like anti-depressants, common sedatives such as Xanax or Valium, may also kill a sex drive. Aside from the physiological effects, the simple smoothing out of all the ups and downs can make some people just plain uninterested in sex. At Scarlet Girl we believe that your biggest, most important, sexual organ is your brain. An important part of arousal and pleasure is that you must first want to want to be sexual.
Others: There is such a list of medications that can cause dryness, it's enough to make a girl reach for her favorite water-based lubricant preemptively (which we totally advocate, anyhow!). Here's a brief rundown:
* Anti-histamines (e.g. Benadryl, Claritin)
* Blood pressure stabilizers
* Chemotherapy drugs
* Anti-seizure meds
* Pain killers with codeine
Ecstasy: Yeah, we lived through the 90's, and a quite a few people we knew did this once popular "party drug". They felt great and had crazy hot sex while high, but some of them now talk about how it's been about a decade since they felt "right" (or the way they used to), and claim that climaxing is still more difficult than it used to be.
Without going in to too much detail, when your brain is flooded with chemicals that mimic your body's own "feel good" hormones your body can take it as a signal to stop producing them naturally. Consequently serotonin levels drop, and can cause you to feel depressed. Even after you have stopped taking the drug it can be very difficult for your body to get back to "normal" pre-drug levels, and begin producing normal levels of serotonin again.
Amphetamines and Meth: Do we really have to get too detailed here? Like Ecstasy, Meth and other amphetamines can cause wild feelings of pleasure, energy, confidence, and arousal, but the crash is ridiculous. Meth is also well known to cause sexual dysfunction. Women often report an inability to climax when high, and often for long periods of time after they have quit the drug. Men can experience impotence (often called crystal-d**k) and/or ability to climax while high, and for an indeterminate length time after ending their drug use.
Some common amphetamines that may be prescribed, but are also abused for recreational use, are Adderall, Ritalin, or Dexedrine.
Opiates: Cocaine was the party drug of the 80's, and in the Pacific NW (where Scarlet Girl is headquartered) there has been a disturbing surge in heroin use in young adults as a new party drug. Again, these drugs may be used for the feeling of euphoria they cause in the short term, but often cause erectile dysfunction in men, and vaginal dryness in women. They also disrupt the normal production and re-uptake of dopamine in the brain (like amphetamines do), and basically "burn out" the pleasure centers of your brain. This can lead to long term depression and sexual dysfunction. Other well known drugs under the opiate umbrella are oxycodone and codeine.
Some common herbal remedies can also unintentionally decrease libido. After all, herbs that have medicinal use are drugs too, so it stands to reason that there may be occasional side effects.
Valerian Root: This common sleep and relation aide can have anaphrodisiac (the opposite of an aphrodisiac!) effects, in addition to making you feel calmer and decreasing your heart rate.
Hops: Uh oh - this is a common ingredient in most beers! So The Bard was more correct than he might have imagined about drinking making things in the bedroom a little difficult. The fruit from the hops plant can be used to calm anxiety and irritability (now we know why that after-work beer often makes the day seem less trying!), and some skin problems. Like modern drugs, herbs used to calm and decrease stress or irritability may decrease sex drive at the same time they help relax your muscles and nervous system.
Chasteberry: Also sold under the name Vitex, this is an herb commonly used to alleviate symptoms of PMS and encourage breast health. It frequently comes in pill or tea form, and can lower the libido of male users.
Desire is not simply a physical thing, despite how it may sound in this very general article. Frankly, anything that wears you down, stresses you out, makes you dry, or interferes with erection, can disrupt your sex life. In addition to anaphrodisiac herbs or drugs, stress and fatigue are also destroyers of libido, and can affect anyone. And since we all have copious amounts of stress, and are probably a little overtired, you may be able to avoid some commonly used herbs or medications that can push sexual desire just little further out of reach than you might like.