Viva Viagra

Originally Published: February 12, 1999 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 5, 2013
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Dear Alice,

Is viagra okay to use?

Dear Reader,

Yes, Viagra is okay to use, with the caveat that it is used correctly and safely, including where you get it and why you want it. Viagra may be romanticized as a modern miracle, but it should be approached with the same precautions as any other powerful prescription drug.

Produced by Pfizer, Inc., Viagra is made for men who have problems getting or keeping erections. A man's body naturally responds to sexual stimulus by releasing the chemical nitric oxide, which acts as a smooth muscle relaxant. The active ingredient in Viagra (sildenafil citrate) enhances the effects of the male body's own chemicals, allowing increased blood flow to the penis, causing an erection. In other words, Viagra helps the body do what it does naturally, making it distinct from other drugs prescribed for erection problems.

There are many different reasons why a man may have difficulty getting or keeping an erection, including stress, diabetes, alcohol intake or other drug use, disinterest in sex in general, or disinterest in sex with a particular partner. A growing body of research supports the idea that erection difficulties have both physiological and psychological determinants — a limp member doesn't necessarily mean a physical problem. And because Viagra is a drug, that makes it all the more important to discuss usage and need for Viagra with your health care provider. For more information on non-physical erection challenges, check out Partner can't maintain erection for intercourse in the Go Ask Alice! archives.

Like many prescription drugs, Viagra has made its way into the illegal drug trade and recreational drug use scene. Scoring Viagra via friends, illicit dealing, or off the Internet may be quite dangerous — the drug should be prescribed by a health care provider who has knowledge of your medical history and can assess whether Viagra is the best and safest solution for your particular situation.

If taken incorrectly or in combination with certain drugs (legal and illegal), Viagra can be hazardous to your health. In particular, Viagra should not be taken in combination with drugs containing nitrates, such as many drugs prescribed for heart conditions, which may cause dangerously low blood pressure. Columbia students on the Morningside campus can make an appointment with a primary care provider via Open Communicator or by calling 212-854-2284. Students on the Medical Center campus can call Medical Services at 212-350-3400 to make an appointment.

If you seek virility via modern pharmaceuticals, obtaining Viagra safely and knowing how it will affect you personally (as opposed to "men in general") are your best bets for erectile-related concerns. Here's hoping for straight-up success!

Alice