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Viagra May Help You Have Sex Again More Quickly

A urologist explains how the drug affects your refractory period

Last month on the Howard Stern Show, a member of Stern’s crew told him that one of the best things about Viagra was that it reduced the amount of time he had to wait between ejaculations. The claim seemed like wishful thinking. Or at least not anything we’d heard before. We thought Viagra was there to give you a boner — nothing more, nothing less. And certainly not something that could turn you into a multiorgasmic magic man. Still, given the fact that we’re clearly not experts on the subject, we felt compelled to launch our own investigation.

How does Viagra work, anyway?

Viagra blocks the breakdown of a chemical called cGMP (the chemical that helps give you an erection). “The chemical causes penile blood vessels to dilate and increases blood flow into the penis,” explains Dr. Laurence A. Levine, a urologist in Chicago. As a result, cGMP builds up in the penis and encourages a more sustained blood flow.

So how does that affect the refractory period? (Also… what is the refractory period?)

The refractory period is the fancy science name for the time between blowing your load and being able to go again. Per Levine, “There’s no clear defined science, but the understanding is that there’s a period of time after which a man ejaculates where another erection cannot occur and separately where the man wouldn’t be able to experience an orgasm and ejaculate again.” It is, in other words, one of those things that isn’t studied too often, so there are few definitive facts on why it happens, how long it lasts or what it’s for.

What we do know is that this period can be reduced by the same little blue pill that lets you get it up for round one in the first place. “The erectile refractory period can be shortened by Viagra,” Levine confirms. “That is to say, if a man is on Viagra and ejaculates, with restimulation of the penis, he will be able to obtain a satisfactory erection to engage in sex more quickly than if he was not on it. Sometimes it can be right away, or minutes later.”

Well, shit. This is news! How does it work?

In scientific terms, Levine says, “All that’s needed to keep an erection is the previously noted ‘good chemical,’ cGMP, which causes the blood vessels to dilate. This chemical is broken down by PDE5 (let’s call this the ‘bad chemical’), but Viagra blocks the effect of PDE5, so more cGMP is around to stimulate blood vessel relaxation.”

To put that in less erection-wilting terms, Viagra stops the so-called “bad chemical” from doing its dirty business, thereby counteracting the usual physiological effect of your boner collapsing like a flan in a cupboard.

I’m assuming news like this comes with a downside, though? Like, if I take too much Viagra, will my cock will harden into concrete, then break off, leaving me like one of those dickless Roman statues?

“Viagra is overall a very safe drug,” says Levine, reassuringly. “There’s really no evidence that it causes any adverse effects to any organs, and in fact, there’s evidence that suggest this group of medications can cause blood vessel relaxation within the lungs, the heart and other organs.”

So, it’s actually sort of good for you, too! Unless of course you’re a man with heart issues. “If a man has a cardiac condition, for which he is on medications containing nitrates to treat coronary disease, and Viagra is taken while the nitrates are in the body, there can be a catastrophic drop in blood pressure,” says Levine. “Therefore, any man who is taking any type of nitrate for any reason should never take Viagra as well.”

There are less dangerous potential side effects for ordinary users, too, including, “Blood vessel dilation in the head and neck which can result in headaches; nasal congestion; facial flushing; injected eyes; and occasionally gastrointestinal distress,” says Levine. “None of these are life-threatening, but can be bothersome to a small percentage of men.”

So this is one of those weighing-up-the-pros-and-cons moments: On the one hand, you might look high and have a stuffy nose. On the other hand, multiple orgasms.

What about if I take it all the time? Will I build up a tolerance and have to go back to my dumb old long refractory periods?

Apparently not! “There’s no evidence that taking Viagra on a regular basis will increase one’s tolerance to the use of this medication,” says Levine. Meaning: it’s not the type of drug that requires a higher and higher dose to be effective over time.

So should someone preparing for a sexual decathlon take Viagra even if they don’t technically need help in getting it up?

“This would be, in essence, an off-label use,” admits Levine. “But there are many men who take Viagra for ED who don’t need the drug [as such], but find that it provides a more reliable and rigid penis, which may improve their overall sexual experience. If that’s the case, in my opinion, it’s reasonable for a man to take Viagra to reduce their erectile ejaculatory period.”

Who says you can’t believe what you hear on Howard Stern?