The term Libido is used to describe an individual’s sexual drive. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), sexual health is a state of physical, social, and mental well-being and libido is one of the key indicators of the sexual health of a person. Libido is understood in relative terms as there is no numeric measurement of libido.
The male libido is guided by the cerebral cortex and the limbic system. Testosterone, a hormone produced by testes in men, is one of the crucial determinants of libido in men. Libido is also determined by external factors like stress, low testosterone levels, and the effects some medicines may have on an individual’s libido.
It is important to take medicines only after consulting a doctor. It is also important to discuss the long-term effects that certain medicines can have on sexual health before taking them.
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Medicines that Cause Low Libido
Anti-anxiety drugs are usually prescription drugs taken for instant relief and prevent the onset of an anxiety attack. They belong to a class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
SSRIs work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the body, which is one of the crucial neurotransmitters carrying signals between neurons. This results in the patient feeling calm and less anxious which prevents the hormones that cause our body to respond from transmitting their message to the brain. Therefore, this sense of calm and stability can lower our libido and can also cause delayed lubrication among women and delayed or blocked orgasm in men.
Antipsychotics are drugs taken to manage psychosis-like delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia. These issues can reduce dopamine D2 receptors in our body which can lead to decreased libido as well as trouble in getting sexually aroused and attaining orgasm.
Blood Pressure Medicines:
Blood pressure medications work to reduce blood pressure by removing extra fluid and salt from the body, slowing the heartbeat, and widening blood vessels. These medicines can lower libido in men and can also cause erectile dysfunction.
Water pills, also called diuretics, can decrease or alter the flow of blood to the penis which can cause erectile dysfunction and affect the libido in men. Moreover, they drain the level of zinc in the body which is crucial for the production of testosterone.
Beta Blockers, which reduce blood pressure by blocking the effects of adrenaline, are also commonly associated with reduced libido and sexual dysfunction.
Popularly known by its abbreviation AED, they are used to prevent seizures by enhancing the onset of inhibition or by decreasing the feeling of excitation in the body.
AEDs leave an impact on the regions of the brain that stimulate sexual activity and lead to a decrease in libido. Studies have found that men who are administered AEDs show a rapid fall in their testosterone levels. They also have an impact on reproductive hormones like estrogen and testosterone which in turn affect the libido of a person.
Opioids are prescribed by doctors to treat acute and chronic pain in patients. In some cases, they are also prescribed to treat severe instances of cough, cold, and diarrhea.
A study conducted by the Research Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences showed that about 80% of male long-term users of opioids face reproductive dysfunction like low libido, impotency, and low levels of testosterone production in the body.
A Danish study conducted on over 11,000 men showed that patients who rely on opioids to treat chronic pain may be less satisfied with their sex life and experience reduced levels of libido.
Birth Control Pills:
Birth control pills contain a mix of hormones such as estrogen and progestogen, which prevents ovulation and thus stops a woman from being getting pregnant, as there is no egg that can be fertilized. Birth control pills are also called combined pills as they contained a combination of the aforementioned hormones.
Birth control pills decrease the production of androgen hormones which is one of the crucial hormones in a female’s reproductive cycle. This reduction in androgen levels in the body diminishes the sexual desire in women.
Moreover, birth control pills increase the production of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin or SHBG which binds to testosterone to prevent it from being circulated and used throughout the body. High levels of SHBG can have a short and long-term impact on a women’s libido.
Hair Loss Drugs:
A sizeable number of people face baldness due to rising levels of stress, deteriorating eating habits, and the early onset of male pattern baldness. The United States National Library of Medicine has estimated that 50 percent of all men over 50 experience male pattern baldness.
Trichologists prescribe drugs to slow down balding which works by inhibiting the production of testosterone in the body which is responsible for male pattern baldness. However, testosterone is also associated with virility and the reduced testosterone in the body may give rise to persistent sexual side effects like erectile dysfunction and reduced libido.
Drugs used to treat allergy are usually easily available over the counter (OTC) and contain antihistamines. Antihistamines counter the effects of histamines which cause watery eyes, runny nose, rashes, itching, and sneezing. It does so by drying out the mucus in the body.
However, the mucus membranes are dried out all over the body, including the vagina, which impedes sexual arousal and also causes general lethargy. If used regularly without proper medical supervision, anti-allergens can negatively impact the libido by making users feel constantly fatigued.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that disturbs the hormone levels in a woman’s body. It causes infrequent, irregular, prolonged, or heavy period cramps due to the development of a small collection of fluids called follicles in the ovaries.
Gynecologists often prescribe birth control pills to regulate the menstrual cycle of patients facing PCOS. About 35% of women who use birth control pills experience reduced libido as these pills work by reducing the testosterone hormone in women.
Low levels of libido can affect the self-confidence of a person and negatively impact the relationships of a person too. Most medicines that impact libido do so by reducing the level of testosterone in the body. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the testosterone production in the body is not affected as it may reduce libido.
To prevent a medicine-induced negative impact on libido, it is important to have detailed discussions with a doctor before taking any medicine to prevent similar libido-related unwanted side effects. Patients who have prescribed a high dosage of medicine for a longer time must ensure that they consult a doctor as soon as they feel any negative impact on their sexual health. This allows the doctor to change the course or the dosage of the medicine if required.