There’s a reason so many libido-challenged Americans are turning to Viagra these days.
It’s because so many of the other drugs they’re taking are killing their sex drive.
The latest evidence? The “pill,” the oral contraceptive so many women take to keep from getting pregnant.
A just-released study has found that women on the pill suffer a decrease in the size of their hypothalamus — the portion of the brain that regulates a person’s appetite for food and sex.
The study measured changes in the size of the hypothalamus of 29 women on the pill and 21 women not on it. The comparison revealed shockingly large differences.
The idea that birth control pills can weaken a woman’s sex drive – for example, by lowering her testosterone levels — is hardly new. A large body of research – albeit disputed — has suggested as much for years.
But past research hasn’t linked that effect to decreased brain size, which suggests that the pill’s libido-crushing effect isn’t temporary –and may not be reversible, either
Some defenders of the pill have suggested that reduced sex drive isn’t really due to contraception use primarily but to relationship issues.
They say women take the pill when they become more monogamous and are less likely to have sex with more partners. And they naturally become less interested in sex as their relationship wears on, they argue.
But others say that’s absurd. Women on the pill want more not less sexual freedom and indeed, more sex generally. The question is whether the pill is facilitating that goal. The latest brain size research clearly suggests otherwise.
Similar claims have been raised about people taking anti-depressants like Prozac and Zolof, which are now widely prescribed even for people with mild symptoms of depression.
About 16 million people suffer from depression severe enough to require medication.
Of these, between a quarter and three-quarters experience sexual side effects including reduced libido, delayed ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and an inability or delayed ability to reach orgasm, according to published studies.
No research is available on the number of people who are taking the pill or anti-depressants as well as the libido-enhancing medications like Viagra.
But women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men which means they may be unusually at risk for sexual dysfunction if they are taking both antidepressants and oral contraceptives
In fact, studies show that women in a relationship of a year or more are more than twice as likely to report a reduced interest in sex. One study found 34% of women reporting this state, compared to just 15% of men
Of course, libido-dampening medications are not the only cause of reduced interest in sex. Past studies have pointed to such factors as stress, lack of sleep, and weight gain, three conditions that afflict Americans in ever going numbers, studies show.
But among women, few medications are as widely used like the pill.
The numbers are staggering: 98% of sexually active women have used birth control at some point in their lives and currently, nearly two thirds (62%) of women of reproductive age are on the pill.
That means of the 77 million women who could bear children, nearly 50 million are taking the pill.
That’s a lot of women in danger of a shrunken brain – and diminished sex drive
Naturally, the drug companies are the big winners here. While consumers are whipsawed between medical cures and their side effects, Big Pharma wins either way.
And in the end, there’s no guarantee that any new line of “corrective” medications – usually more expensive than the last — will work as advertised.
Witness the growth of anti-depression medications for people already taking anti-depressants — but still depressed. Can a turbo-charged Viagra be far behind?
Bouncing from one promising drug cure to the next, consumers have become a pinball in a corporate profit-making machine.
And somehow that pinball always drains in the end.