Can Xanax Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

By The Rex MD Editorial Team

March 18, 2021

Anxiety is a common psychological condition that affects thousands of people today. The 2020 Stress in America Survey found that about 18% of adults suffer from an anxiety disorder, and this figure only represents the portion of individuals that have actually been diagnosed and seek treatment. Anxiety is truly affecting the population at an alarming rate and represents one of the ky causative agents of the poorly addressed mental health crisis in America

These findings are unsurprising when you consider the circumstances people have been put in due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Americans have been laid off, unable to pay rent, forced to stay inside, and had to face the realities of a virus that could cost people their lives. Not only is this affecting the mental health status of adults, but children during this time have endured their fair share of adversity due to the pandemic as well.

A review conducted in 2013 found that Xanax was the most prescribed psychotropic medication in the United States. With a broader acceptance of mental health care by the population, plus an increase in recreational drug use, the use of Xanax has increased and will likely continue to for the foreseeable future. 

Below is a more detailed look into this prescription medication as well as how it relates to erectile dysfunction. Equipped with this knowledge you can become more informed about how treatments for anxiety and erectile dysfunction mix, or don't. 

What is Xanax?

Alprazolam, more commonly known as Xanax, is a part of the drug class benzodiazepines. 

Benzodiazepines, also known as benzos, are drugs that are able to cross the blood brain barrier and interact with the receptors on neurons in the brain. More specifically Xanax interacts with the GABA receptors in the brain to amplify their effect. This makes Xanax an agonist, essentially amplifying the effects of the GABA neurotransmitter in the brain. 

The GABA neurotransmitter is responsible for the suppression of the Central Nervous System (CNS). The CNS consists of both the brain and spinal cord. In simple terms, Xanax acts by reducing nerve activity in the brain and spinal cord. The effects of this action leads to a sensation of calming and an altered perception, where things may even seem fuzzy.

What is Xanax Used For?

Xanax, is a prescription medication used to treat anxiety and panic disorders. When a person has an anxiety or panic disorder, it increases the stimulation and release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones lead to an excitation of the central nervous system and suppression of GABA. 

In this situation, Xanax provides an extra punch to the GABA present in the brain. Because GABA levels are often reduced due to the stress response, it results in a decreased feeling of anxiety and allows those suffering from these conditions temporary relief. 

What Are the Side Effects of Xanax

Because Xanax directly impacts the function of the brain, it is easy to understand that it isn’t without a certain level of risks and side effects. The most common side effects when prescribed Xanax are lightheadedness and drowsiness, according to a FDA fact sheet on Xanax. Other side effects include memory lapses, decreased ability to concentrate, decreased coordination, and many more. 

People who take Xanax should also be aware that it is addictive and should follow a weaning schedule. Additionally, in some cases Xanax can increase the chances of suicidal thoughts and increase paranoia. Xanax also has many different interactions that need to be effectively conveyed to the patient. If you have a question regarding your Xanax prescription, it's advised that you reach out to your doctor. Xanax is a controlled substance and requires extra diligence when taking it. 

Are There Xanax Alternatives?

While Xanax is effective in alleviating panic and anxiety disorders, in isolation it does not treat either one. Xanax should be used as a temporary solution to these disorders because the body can build up a tolerance to the medication, and it's incredibly easy to become addicted. 

Alternatives to Xanax include psychological therapy, self care, and medications like SSRIs

SSRIs are a class of drug that increases the synaptic availability of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin plays a key role in mood, and by increasing synaptic concentration you can effectively elevate mood and help with anxiety symptoms. Unlike Xanax, SSRIs are typically safer for extended use and can be a better option for some people, as SSRIs are less addictive. 

Does Xanax Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

While the used of Xanax is typically for short term treatment of anxiety or panic disorders, it can pose a detrimental effect to your ability to carry out day to day activities, including your ability to maintain or attain an erection.

Xanax works by suppressing the CNS and slowing brain activity. Getting an erection is a much more involved process than many people think - an erection involves an interplay between your brain, circulatory system, reproductive system, and endocrine system. 

While the exact mechanism behind how Xanax impacts erectile function is not known, it's been inferred that the suppressive effects of Xanax on the CNS has something to do erectile function.  

Underlying Stress and Erectile Dysfunction

Another aspect to consider is that the conditions Xanax aims to treat can actually be causal agents of erectile dysfunction. 

It's understood that anxiety and stress can cause erectile dysfunction. Stress-induced erectile dysfunction is a complex form of erectile dysfunction that requires a treatment plan that involves treating ED while also treating the underlying stress simultaneously. Many anxiety medications can increase ED symptoms, and ED can cause further stress. This cycle can spiral into a very complex and difficult issue. 

Because of the complexities of this combination, it's incredibly important to have open conversations with your physician as you consider possible treatment options. 

A licensed physician can help you navigate the complexities of your situation and present the best possible routes of treatment. 

Rex MD takes this a step further and allows patients to have direct access to a licensed physician from the comfort and privacy of their own home. Decreasing barriers to seeking care is important, especially for those with anxiety or panic disorders. Being in the comfort of your own home can alleviate some of that stress and allow you to get the timely and affordable care you deserve. 

How is Erectile Dysfunction Treated?

Erectile dysfunction treatment has come a long way, and there are now numerous viable options to treating erectile dysfunction than ever. In the not so distant past, men with ED had no viable options for effectively treating ED. Today there are many different medications that are able to achieve the same result – an erection. 

Viagra® is often the first ED medication that comes to most mind at the mention of ED. The little blue pill is what started the whole segment of ED medications and is still immensely popular today. ED medications work by competitively inhibiting the Phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5) enzyme. Doing so increases the availability of nitric oxide in the corpus cavernosum. Nitric oxide in the corpus cavernosum stimulates vasodilation in the penis and allows for an erection to occur. 

Other options include Cialis® and Levitra®. Both of these work by the same mechanism as Viagra and increase NO concentrations in the corpus cavernosum. The differences between Viagra vs. Cialis vs. Levitra comes down to chemical composition and the way that the altered structures interact and are metabolized in the body. 

So, Does Xanax Cause ED?

Xanax is a prescription drug that alters the chemistry in your brain to restore balance and some normalcy. In the case of anxiety and panic disorders, Xanax increases the potency of GABA, which is typically in lower concentrations for those with anxiety or panic disorders. When prescribed correctly, Xanax can be an effective tool in the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders. 

Xanax, however, has potential side effects, one of which is the potential to cause alterations to your sexual health. The suppression of the central nervous system can result in a decreased sex drive, in addition to the inability to attain or keep an erection. The exact way in which Xanax impacts your sexual health is not completely understood; there are indications that the use of Xanax can lead to ED. While this association exists, it's difficult to know whether or not the drug is to blame or if it is the stress associated with the psychological conditions that leads to ED. 

Due to the complex nature of stress, Xanax, and ED it is important for you to consult your physician to find the best course of action for you and your needs. Telemedicine providers like Rex MD can help you find the right solution, online and with the help of a licensed physician. 

Sources

https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/facts-statistics

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10035-erectile-dysfunction

https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2020/10/stress-mental-health-crisis#:~:text=Stress%20in%20AmericaTM%202020,faces%20is%20overwhelming%20to%20them.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5846112/#:~:text=Alprazolam%20is%20not%20only%20the,2013%20(Grohol%2C%202016).

https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/018276s045lbl.pdf

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513311/#:~:text=GABA%20is%20the%20primary%20inhibitory,alpha%2Dcells%20to%20beta%20cells.

https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/ssris-and-benzodiazepines-general-anxiety

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6066992/


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Disclaimer : This article is for information only and should not be considered medical advice. Always speak with your doctor about your health and the benefits or risks of any treatment or intervention. This information should not be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice.