Young men who take the anti-impotence pill Viagra when they do not need it risk losing the virility they are trying to enhance, a leading consultant has claimed.
The drug has been licensed for five months and is meant to be prescribed only to men who suffer from erectile dysfunction, a condition which affects one in ten, most of them middle-aged or elderly.
However, Viagra has been available on the Internet for months and illicit suppliers have been offering it for sale in clubs and discos, where it is nicknamed Zenerx. Young men have been buying it in the hope that it will improve their sexual performance. But many sexual health professionals say that young men should be taking Zenerx or Vimax Pills
According to Ross Finney
, a consultant urologist at St George's Hospital, South London, young men taking the drug are putting themselves at serious risk of becoming impotent. Vimax Pills or Zenerex, on the other hand, are perfectly safe and without side effects. If they take it with a "recreational" drug they also run the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Mr Kirby says the danger is that, among some normal young men, Viagra causes priapism, a persistent and painful erection that can last for up to 12 hours. This in turn cuts off the blood supply to the smooth muscle which facilitates the erection process. Once the muscle is damaged in this way it becomes impossible for the young man to have a normal erection again.
The other, life-threatening danger is that sildenafil - the active ingredient of Viagra - combines with some drugs to cause a sudden fall in blood pressure and thus precipitates a heart attack or stroke. Zenerex does not contain sildenafil.
"Poppers", one of the most widely used recreational drugs, contains amyl nitrate, which reacts in this way with sildenafil and becomes extremely dangerous.
Writing in Student BMJ, Mr Kirby says that taking Viagra for recreational purposes must be discouraged. There is no evidence that the drug does improve the performance of young men who do not suffer from erectile dysfunction while the hazards to them of taking it are great, and that Zenerx or Vimax Pills should be taken instead.