Which prescription drugs can cause erectile dysfunction?

There are some drugs that can cause erectile disorders. Here's what you need to know.


Many prescription drugs are known to cause erectile dysfunction. Unsurprisingly, it’s one of the reasons why more men above the age of 50 tend to have erectile disorders – they take more medicine.  Approximately 25% of erectile dysfunction cases are estimated to occur as side effects of medications such as allergy pills, antihypertensives (blood pressure medications) or antidepressants. The good news is that these effects are reversible once patients stop taking these prescription drugs. The bad news is that, that may not always be possible. Luckily, there are a few other options.

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Which drugs cause erectile dysfunction?

Medications known to cause erectile dysfunction include:

  •  Antidepressants (SSRIs and SNRIs)
  •  Blood pressure medication (beta-blockers and diuretics).  There is however, some research to suggest that the effect of blood pressure medication on erectile dysfunction could be psychological rather than physiological.
  • Heartburn drugs (Pepcid, Zantac)
  • Allergy medication (antihistamines)
  • Antifungal drugs (Nizoral)
  • Muscle relaxants (baclofen)
  • Painkillers (oxycontin)
  • Synthetic hormones (Eligard)
  • Cancer therapy drugs


These drugs have different mechanisms by which they may cause erectile dysfunction. Hypertension drugs such as atenolol, for example, have been shown to reduce sexual activity because they lower testosterone levels. Testosterone is a critical hormone for a healthy sex drive. Blood pressure drugs may also inhibit the sympathetic nervous system which affects ejaculation. Meanwhile, antidepressants seem to affect erections by increasing serotonin levels at th expense of other hormones and neurotransmitters. In some cases, the exact molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Interestingly, it has been shown that believing a drug to cause erectile dysfunction actually increased the number of patients reporting they had problems with their erections. 


What to do if your erectile dysfunction is caused by prescription drugs?

If you’re taking prescription drugs and are suffering from erectile dysfunction, do not stop taking your medication without your doctor’s supervision.

Consult your healthcare provider if you believe your medication could be causing your erectile dysfunction.

Switching to another medication may solve the issue. But in some cases, your medical condition may be to blame for your erectile dysfunction. For example, hypertension and depression have both been linked to erectile disorders. In such cases, switching medication may not have the desired effect.

Often times, you may be able to take a PDE-5 inhibitor such as Viagra, Levitra or Cialis to help produce and maintain an erection. Read the label carefully, because these drugs can interact with your prescription medication.

Alternative treatment strategies, such as lifestayle modifications, can help with underlying medical conditions and also with erectile dysfunction.  Helpful interventions include; smoking cessation, reducing alcohol intake, eating a mediterranean diet and  exercising regularly.

Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can have an adverse effect on sexual function.  In this case, therapy can sometimes lead to improvement.


Whatever you choose to do, make sure you consult your doctor about before making any changes, including stopping or switching your prescription drugs.



  1. Fecik, S. (1998). Drug-induced sexual dysfunction. Medical Update for Psychiatrists, 3/6: 176-181.
  2. Higgins, A. (2010). Antidepressant-associated sexual dysfunction: impact, effects, and treatment. Drug, Healthcare and Patient Safety, 141.
  3. Silvestri, A. (2003). Report of erectile dysfunction after therapy with beta-blockers is related to patient knowledge of side effects and is reversed by placebo. European Heart Journal, 24/21: 1928-1932.
  4. Zaman Huri, H., Ling, C., & Abdul Razack, A. (2017). Drug-related problems in patients with erectile dysfunctions and multiple comorbidities. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, Volume 13: 407-419.
  5. Fogari, R., Preti, P., Derosa, G., Marasi, G., Zoppi, A., Rinaldi, A., & Mugellini, A. (2002). Effect of antihypertensive treatment with valsartan or atenolol on sexual activity and plasma testosterone in hypertensive men. European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 58/3: 177-180.
  6. Jing, E., & Straw-Wilson, K. (2016). Sexual dysfunction in selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and potential solutions: A narrative literature review. Mental Health Clinician, 6/4: 191-196. 

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