It’s estimated that 30-40 percent of people around the globe experience a lack of interest in sex for at least several months in any given year.1 The reasons for low libido are complex and run the gamut from stress and other emotional difficulties to physical problems, including erectile dysfunction.
Most people do not seek help for chronic low libido, which is unfortunate because regular sex with a committed partner cannot be underestimated as a factor for reducing stress, bolstering self-esteem, and fostering feelings of intimacy and bonding between partners.
A healthy sex life can provide for a longer, healthier and, most would agree, more enjoyable life, but many are missing out on this very primal pleasure.
11 Drugs That May Cause Low Libido
Oftentimes low libido is related to your lifestyle, and that includes any medications you are taking. Many medications can interfere with your sex drive, including the 11 that follow. Considering the widespread use of many of these, it’s likely that medication use is a leading cause of low libido among both men and women.
If you’re taking one of these and have experienced a drop in your libido, talk with a natural health care practitioner about drug-free alternatives. Many of the drugs below are used for conditions that are better treated using non-drug methods.
1. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) Antidepressants
Sexual dysfunction is a frequent side effect of antidepressants, including the SSRIs (Prozac, Zoloft, etc.) that are often used as a first-line treatment option for depression. According to a report in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience:2
“Sexual dysfunction occurs through several brain pathways involving increases in serotonin (5-HT), decreases in dopamine (DA) and inhibition of nitric oxide synthase. Increases in cortico-limbic 5-HT result in decreased sexual desire, ejaculation and orgasm.
Consequently, it is not surprising that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI)-induced sexual dysfunction occurs in 30%–80% of patients and is a main cause of treatment discontinuation.”
2. Tricyclic Antidepressants
Tricyclic antidepressants are much less widely used than the newer SSRIs, but they are still prescribed for both depression and nerve pain. Like SSRIs, tricyclic antidepressants are also associated with decreased libido.
3. Birth Control Pills
About 15 percent of women taking oral contraceptives report a decrease in libido, likely because they lower levels of sex hormones, including testosterone.3 One study also found seven times the amount of the libido-killing sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG) was present in women who took oral contraceptives compared to women who never used the pill.
Even though SHBG levels declined in women who had stopped taking the pill, they still remained three to four times higher than they were in women with no history of using oral contraceptives, which suggests oral contraceptives may kill a woman’s libido for the long-term. Researchers concluded:4
“Long-term sexual, metabolic, and mental health consequences might result as a consequence of chronic SHBG elevation [in women who take, or have taken, oral contraceptives.”
Proscar belongs to a class of drugs called 5-alpha-reductase inhibitors, which are used to treat enlarged prostate. Your prostate gland contains an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, which converts the male hormone testosterone to another androgen called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This class of drugs inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, thereby blocking the conversion of testosterone DHT.
As a result, they may help to actually shrink your prostate, but they come with significant risks, one of which is a lower libido from the lower testosterone. You can find natural tips for prostate health here.
5. Baldness Drug Propecia
Propecia is a similar drug to Proscar, but typically used at a lower dose to prevent hair loss in men. The drug works by reducing DHT, the most potent male hormone that is linked to shrinking hair, by blocking the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. It has been linked to not only a decreased interest in sex but also to full blown impotence.
BBC News followed one story of a 26-year-old who took Propecia for male pattern baldness. He stopped taking the drug when he noticed a decreased interest in sex, then a few weeks later became impotent. Even after six months of testosterone therapy his sexual health had not been restored, and his physician suggested a penile implant as a solution.5 Many men have found that the sexual side effects do not go away once the drug is stopped.
Antihistamines, particularly Benadryl and Chlor-Trimeton, are also linked to a temporary loss of libido. Once the medication is cleared from your body your sex drive should go back to normal, but if you take these medications often, such as for allergy treatment, it could pose a longer-term problem for your sex life.
7. Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana is legal in 20 states, where it is commonly used to treat pain, nausea, and other conditions. It may dampen your libido and ability to perform in men.
8. Anti-Seizure Drugs
Carbamazepine (Tegretol) is commonly used to prevent seizures, which it does by preventing impulses from traveling along nerve cells. Because it dampens nerve impulses, it may also reduce pleasurable sensations derived from sexual contact. Reduced sexual desire is common among Tegretol users. One study found, for instance, that epileptic men taking carbamazepine had changes in hormonal levels, altered semen quality, increased erectile dysfunction, and reduced frequency of sexual intercourse.6
Widely prescribed opioid painkillers (Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, etc.) have been making headlines for their addictive potential, but they also lower testosterone levels, which may in turn lower your libido.
10. Beta Blockers
Tens of millions of Americans take beta blockers to lower their blood pressure, and these medications, too, may decrease libido. Even eye drops containing the beta blocker Timolol (for the treatment of glaucoma) may impact your sex drive. In the vast majority of cases, drugs are not needed to reverse hypertension.
There is evidence to suggest that anti-anxiety drugs like Xanax negatively affect sexual functioning,7 including lowering your sex drive.