ED Dangers: Drugs That Cause Erectile Dysfunction

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Written By Julie Ingram
drugs that cause erectile dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is a common condition affecting 30 million males in the US.

It is the inability to get or maintain a firm erection for sexual intercourse.

Various psychological and physical factors can contribute to ED. 

One such factor is the use of certain drugs like painkillers. 

This article will elaborate on all the drugs that cause Erectile Dysfunction. 

Also, we will discuss how to manage this drug-induced ED.

Medications that cause Erectile Dysfunction

Medications that cause Erectile DysfunctionSource: Getty-images-signature
Medications that cause Erectile Dysfunction

Erectile Dysfunction can be a side effect of various medicines. 

The list of drugs that cause Erectile Dysfunction includes antidepressants, antihistamines, painkillers, etc.


Doctors prescribe antidepressants to treat or prevent the recurrence of depression. 

But some antidepressants can cause Erectile Dysfunction. These include

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs like Fluoxetine)
  • Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (Zyban)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (Pamelor)

Antidepressants like SSRIs selectively inhibit serotonin reuptake in the central nervous system. 

As a result, Serotonin increases and imbalances hormones and neurotransmitters like testosterone and dopamine. Testosterone affects sexual excitement, while dopamine is responsible for an orgasm. 

Disturbance in any of these sexual factors can lead to ED.

Also, some antidepressants can restrict blood flow to the penis. 

Fluoxetine is an antidepressant that decreases Nitric oxide (NO). NO is necessary for dilating blood vessels to improve penile blood flow.

As a result, it makes it difficult to get or maintain an erection.

Certain antidepressants carry a lower risk of side effects than others.

So to prevent ED, you may use antidepressants with a lower risk of adverse effects.


Histamine is a chemical that our body produces in response to allergens.

Antihistamines are medicines used to treat allergies, such as hives and hay fever.

Long-term use of antihistamines can cause Erectile Dysfunction. 

Antihistamines can block the effects of a chemical called Acetylcholine. This chemical plays an active role in the erection process. Low levels of Acetylcholine may cause erection issues. 

Also, histamines may play a role in human penile erection. This may be linked to the activation of H2 receptors or H3. 

Antihistamines inhibit the effects of histamines within the body. This could cause Erectile Dysfunction.

Furthermore, first-generation antihistamines can have sedative effects. Drugs that cause sedation may affect the normal sexual response.

The antihistamines that may cause Erectile Dysfunction are Benadryl and Zantac.

Anti-hypertensive drugs

Medication used to lower high blood pressure medications can cause ED.

Although these drugs relax blood vessels, they decrease blood flow to the penis. 

Thus, making it difficult to get or maintain an erection. 

Almost all hypertension drugs can cause Erectile Dysfunction.

But beta-blockers and diuretics are near the top of the list. 

Alpha-blockers, angiotensin-receptor blockers, and ACE inhibitors are less likely to cause ED. 

So, when choosing the drug for Hypertension, go for the ones which reduce the risk of ED.

Hypertension drugs that can cause Erectile Dysfunction include

  • Thiazide Diuretics like Chlorothiazide, Hydrochlorothiazide, and Chlorthalidone
  • Loop Diuretics like Bumetanide and Furosemide
  • Beta-blockers, including Propranolol, Atenolol, and Metoprolol
  • Anti-androgens

    Androgens are the hormones responsible for the formation of male sexual characteristics.

    Anti-androgens are useful in treating prostate cancer or heartburn. These are drugs that can cause Erectile Dysfunction.

    They interfere with some of the androgens, like testosterone, which is a male sex hormone. 

    Erectile function is testosterone dependent. 

    Any imbalance in the levels of testosterone can cause erection issues. 

    Also, anti-androgens can cause fatigue and depression. These are the independent causes of Erectile Dysfunction.

    Some common anti-androgen medicines include Aldactone and Propecia.

    Anti-anxiety drugs

    Erectile Dysfunction is a common side effect of anti-anxiety drugs.

    Types of anti-anxiety drugs that can cause Erectile Dysfunction, include


    Antidepressant drugs like SSRIs are useful in treating anxiety issues. 

    As mentioned, these drugs can cause Erectile Dysfunction. 


    Benzodiazepines (anti-anxiety drugs) are a type of sedative drug. 

    They enhance Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) receptor function, which reduces erection. 

    Also, sedative drugs may affect the normal sexual response.


    Beta-blockers block certain nervous system receptors responsible for causing an erection. 

    Thus, leading to difficulty in getting or maintaining an erection.

    Chemotherapy and hormonal therapy

    Chemotherapy and hormonal therapySource: Getty-images-signature
    Chemotherapy and hormonal therapy

    As per research, chemotherapy and hormone therapy can result in ED.

    Chemotherapy used to kill cancer cells can affect the nerves that control erections.

    Some medicines used to prevent Nausea during chemo can also create hormonal imbalance.

    These factors may reduce your interest in sex. 

    Thus, leading to difficulty in getting an erection. 

    Hormonal therapy like Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT) treats prostate cancer. 

    Low libido is a common side effect of ADT. 

    As a result, decreased sexual desire leads to Erectile Dysfunction.


    People usually take painkillers to treat pain. 

    But this may increase the risk of erection issues. 

    Painkillers, like opioids, may interfere with the body’s normal functioning. They can reduce the sex hormones like testosterone. This leads to low sexual arousal, impotence, or infertility.

     Some painkillers, like Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), can constrict blood vessels. This can obstruct blood flow to the penis. Thus, making it difficult to get and maintain a hard erection.

    Recreational Drugs

    Besides medications, certain recreational drugs can also cause ED.

    They can interfere with the process of sexual arousal.

    Thus, making it difficult to get or maintain an erection.

    Examples include alcohol, narcotics like heroin, hallucinogens, etc.

    What is the treatment for drug-induced Erectile Dysfunction

    There are various treatments for drug-induced Erectile Dysfunction. 

    These treatments include medicine switches or adjustments, ED medicines, etc.

    Medication Switch or adjusted

    If your medicines are causing ED, consider switching to alternative medications. 

    For example, anti-hypertensive medicines like beta blockers commonly cause ED. But alpha-blockers, which are also BP medicines, are less likely to cause ED.

    In some cases, lowering the dosage of the ED-causing medicine may also help.

    Do not indulge in self-medication. Switch or adjust your medicine only after consulting a doctor.

    Erectile Dysfunction Medications

    Oral ED pills like Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra may be helpful.

    They contain either Sildenafil, Tadalafil, or Vardenafil, which are FDA-approved drugs.

    These pills work by increasing blood flow to the penis.

    Thus, helping in getting or maintaining a firm erection.

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  • Other ED Treatments

    If ED pills are not working, you may try other ED treatments.

    These include penile injections, vacuum devices, or surgery. 

    A study has validated their effectiveness in treating drug-induced ED. 

    But you must consider these options only if other treatments are ineffective.


    There are many drugs that can cause Erectile Dysfunction.

    Antidepressants, painkillers, antihistamines, etc, are among those drugs. 

    But it does not mean that all individuals taking these drugs will face erection issues. 

    The severity of symptoms may vary from person to person. 

    It is advisable to consult your doctor to minimize the ED risk while taking other medications. 

    The doctor will prescribe the medications or dosage on the individualized basis. They will suggest the medications according to your medical conditions and suitability.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why do drugs cause Erectile Dysfunction?

    Many medicines cause erectile dysfunction (ED) as an adverse effect. While treating a condition, medicines may also influence hormones, nerves, or blood circulation. Disturbance in any of the above can raise the risk of Erectile Dysfunction.

    What are the most common medications that cause Erectile Dysfunction?

    The most common medicines that cause Erectile Dysfunction include hypertension drugs, antidepressant pills, painkillers, anti-anxiety drugs, anti-androgens, etc.

    What illegal drugs cause Erectile Dysfunction?

    There are many illegal drugs whose use can cause Erectile Dysfunction. These include Heroin, Cocaine, Marijuana, and Ecstasy. As per a study, abusive use of illegal drugs caused ED in 36.4% of users.

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