Are meds killing your libido?

Incredibly, six out of 10 of the most prescribed medicines decrease libido in men and women.

by Dr. Ann Lovick — 

Can something you take every day disrupt your sex life? Absolutely! Medications are one of the most common libido killers. When meds are prescribed or taken over-the-counter, most people do not consider the side effects that go with them.

We usually just want symptom relief and blame our low sex drive on stress, a bad mood or even our partner. And while these are all important pieces of the puzzle, it is important not to overlook any drugs taken on a daily basis.

According to a report from the Institute for Healthcare Informatics, the top 10 most prescribed drugs are:

  1. Hydrocodone (pain relief) — lowers sex drive
  2. Zocor/simvastatin (lower cholesterol) — lowers sex drive
  3. Lisinopril (lower blood pressure) — lowers sex drive
  4. Synthroid (increase thyroid levels)
  5. Norvasc/amlodipine (lower blood pressure) — lowers sex drive
  6. Prilosec/omeprazole (acid reflux) — lowers sex drive
  7. Azithromycin (antibiotic)
  8. Amoxicillin  (antibiotic)
  9. Glucophage/metformin (lower blood sugar)
  10. Hydrochlorothiazine (lower blood pressure) — lowers sex drive

Incredibly, six out of 10 of the most prescribed medicines decrease libido in men and women. So which ones are the worst culprits?

Let us start with the cholesterol-lowering medication Zocor. This class of drug also includes two of the top 10 selling drugs — Lipitor and Crestor. Cholesterol is the backbone of all our hormones. Therefore, it makes sense that anything that lowers cholesterol will also lower hormone production.

A 2010 study showed that men prescribed statin drugs had lower testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction. Testosterone is required for sexual arousal; so anything that inhibits it will likely reduce sex drive, as well.

Opiate analgesics, such as hydrocodone, oxycontin and codeine, have been shown to lower testosterone and are linked to erectile dysfunction. Blood pressure medications such as Lisinopril, Norvasc and Hydrochlorothiazine (HCTZ) are also notorious for causing erectile dysfunction in men. Metoprolol is another commonly used anti-hypertensive medication linked to a decreased interest in sex.

Serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain, is manipulated by a class of drugs called SSRIs. These are commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. Serotonin is responsible for regulating sexual behaviors such as erection, orgasm and ejaculation. However, high serotonin levels will decrease sex drive. A common side effect of SSRIs, which are designed to increase serotonin levels, is decreased libido.

In addition to these commonly prescribed meds, over-the-counter medicines like antihistamines (such as Benadryl) can disrupt your sex life. Just as antihistamines dry up allergy-induced sinus congestion, they also dry up or decrease vaginal lubrication, thereby decreasing sexual interest and pleasure.

Birth control pills cause a drop in a woman’s libido. They increase the production of a protein called sex hormone binding globulin. This protein binds to hormones but has an affinity for testosterone. When testosterone binds to this protein, the body cannot use it. Ironically, even though many women take birth control for the freedom to have sex without getting pregnant, the pill actually lowers a woman’s interest in having sex.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately, the list of drugs that disrupts libido is very long. If you think your meds may be affecting your sex life, please talk to your doctor.

Never stop taking a medicine because you do not like the side effects. Your doctor may be able to help you make lifestyle changes that allow you to withdraw from or change the drug under proper supervision.

 

Ann Lovick, N.M.D, is in practice at Integrative Health in Scottsdale, Ariz., along with Drs. Alan Christianson and Phil Wazny. 480-657-0003 or www.integrativehealthcare.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 4, August/September 2012.

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