Watch out for these drug classes that lower sex drive. If you are prescribed one or more of the more common drugs used in the United States, there’s a reasonably good chance that you may experience a decline in sex drive, or libido. Many patients (men and women) are afraid or hesitant to discuss their sex drive with their doctor, not realizing that low libido many times is a harbinger of other health problems. And conversely, any chronic medical problem can attribute to a lower sex drive. The point is the cause for low libido should be investigated.
Unfortunately, many classes of drugs used to treat chronic medical problems can adversely affect libido causing unintended consequences and sometimes creating additional strain on a relationship.
Drug Classes That Lower Sex Drive
- SSRI antidepressants
- Blood pressure medications(beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and ACE inhibitors)
- Narcotic pain medication
- Statins (cholesterol)
- 5-α reductase inhibitors (hair loss, prostate enlargement)
What’s interesting about these classes of medications is that they are prescribed for conditions that usually benefit from simply restoring sex hormone levels to more optimal levels. In other words, if your sex hormone levels were better, there may be a chance that you would not need some of these medications, especially if coupled with a solid nutrition and exercise plan.
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The brain is rich in receptors for sex hormones. If those receptors are not stimulated the brain functions sub-optimally. Some now believe estrogen meets the definition of a neurotransmitter. And, in the brain synapses testosterone gets converted into estrogen making testosterone a “pre-neurotransmitter”.
Cholesterol is needed to manufacture sex hormones. Elevated cholesterol occurs with aging and is felt to be a maladaptive response to declining sex hormone production. It is not uncommon to see cholesterol levels normalize when sex hormones are restored to more optimal levels.
Testosterone and progesterone relax blood vessels improving blood flow and enabling blood pressure to be better controlled.
So these are just a few examples of how restoring sex hormone to healthy levels may preclude the need for one of these classes of medications.
That’s not to say these classes of medications do not work – they usually do work but at the expense of something else. In this case, your sex drive. Remember your body naturally makes hormones. It does not naturally make SSRIs, beta-blockers, statins, etc.
Some of the more common brand (generic) names of SSRIs include Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram), Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline). Newer antidepressants like Brintellix and Fetizma are not supposed to affect libido and may be alternatives to consider if your current antidepressant is adversely affecting your libido.
Blood Pressure Medications
Within this category are 3 different types of blood pressure medications that can affect libido. They are referred to as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and ACE inhibitiors. Many of these drugs are also prescribed for other reasons like heart disease, renal disease, and panic attacks/anxiety.
Some of the more common brand (generic) names of beta blockers include Coreg (carvediol), Corgard (nadolol), Inderal (propanolol), Lopressor/Toprol (metoprolol), Normodyne (labetalol), Tenormin (atenolol), and Zebeta (bisoprolol).
Calcium Channel Blockers
Some of the more common brand (generic) calcium channel blockers include Procardia/Adalat (nifedipine), Norvasc (amlodipine), Cardizem (diltizem), and Calan/Isoptin (verapamil).
Some of the more common brand (generic) ACE inhibitors include Zestril (lisinopril), Lotensin (benazepril), Vasotec (enalapril), Altace (ramipril), and Accupril (quinapril).
Narcotic Pain Medications
Some of the more common brand (generic) narcotic pain medications include Vicodin/Lortab (hydrocodone), Demerol (meperdine), Oxycontin (oxycodone), Talwin (pentazocine), Dilaudid (hydromorphone), and Roxanol (morphine).
Some of the more common brand (generic) statins include Mevacor (lovastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Lipitor (atorvastatin), and Crestor (rosuvastatin)
5-Alpha Reductase Inhibitors
The more common brand (generic names) of 5-α reductase inhibitors include Propecia/Proscar (finasteride), Avodart (dutasteride), and Jalyn (dutasteride/tamsulosin).
Whenever being prescribed a medication it is always wise to inquire about other options, both pharmacologic and non-pharmcologic. There may be medications in a different class that can be prescribed that do not adversely affect libido. For instance, an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) can be used to treat high blood pressure rather than a beta blocker.
Because restoring sex hormone to youthful levels may reduce and/or prevent the need for one of these classes of medications asking to have your hormone levels checked is very reasonable and should be expected if any of your symptoms are suggestive of a hormonal deficiency.
If you need to be on one of these classes of drugs that lower sex drive you want to use the smallest dose possible that is effective so that side effects like lower sex drive might be avoided.
Other big offenders of lower sex drive that are not prescription medications include alchohol and stress.
Finally, don’t forget the importance of nutrition and exercise. Better nutrition and regular exercise can reduce the need for many of these commonly and chronically prescribed medications.
This article was updated 7/3/15.
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