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Substance Abuse Can Ruin Sex for Years

By McCarton Ackerman 01/18/13

A new study links heavy drug and alcohol use to long-term male sexual dysfunction.

Addiction could be a downer. Photo via

Booze and drugs can be a real downer in the bedroom, even long after you sober up, according to new research. A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine finds that a man's sexual performance may suffer for years following a period of heavy substance use. Of the 906 men participating, 550 had been diagnosed with a past addiction to cocaine, alcohol, heroin, marijuana, speedballs (heroin and cocaine) or a combination, but were clean at the time of the study. The remaining participants hadn't ever used drugs or drunk heavily. Researchers from the University of Granada, Spain, and Santo Tomas University in Colombia examined four key areas of sexual performance: sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, sexual arousal and orgasm. The former drug users reported "moderately to significantly impaired sexual performance" compared to their non-using counterparts. Erectile dysfunction was caused by alcohol more than any other drug, while orgasm difficulties were linked to heroin, speedballs, cocaine and alcohol. During peak periods of drug abuse, cocaine users reported the highest sexual desire, while speedball users reported enhanced sexual pleasure, but reduced desire.

Prescription drugs have also been linked to decreased sexual performance. Professor David Taylor, director of pharmacy and pathology at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, notes that antidepressants like Prozac, Seroxat and sertraline are known to cause a loss of libido and delayed orgasm in most users. "These drugs work by increasing levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that stimulates certain receptors in the brain to improve mood," he says. "However, this also stimulates other receptors which appear to lower libido."

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.

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