Viagra, Herbal Viagra, and Stroke

When we think of drug abuse, most people think of illegal drugs - but legal medications can also be abused and misused. Using more medication than is prescribed is dangerous and can have life-altering or life-threatening consequences. Misuse of vitamins and herbs can also cause harm - these substances contain real chemicals and can cause dangerous side effects.

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Viagra and the so-called "herbal Viagra", for example, can be very dangerous if used improperly. Learn more about Viagra and herbal Viagra abuse, including an increased risk for stroke. 

What Is Viagra?

Viagra (sildenafil) was approved by the FDA in 1998 as a treatment for impotence. The drug works in men who have erectile dysfunction by increasing the blood flow to allow normal sexual functioning. In 2017, the generic sildenafil hit the market - making it more available and affordable.

It is generally recommended for men who have been diagnosed with sexual dysfunction, but men who do not have any problems with sexual function have been known to obtain and abuse it. It has a tendency to be abused in combination with methamphetamine, an illegal drug.

What Is Herbal Viagra? 

Herbal Viagra is any herb or chemical that is sold or promoted to increase sexual function and has not been tested or formally approved for that purpose. Some formulations of herbal Viagra are not illegal, while some are mixed with illegal drugs or controlled substances, and are therefore illegal.

Herbal Viagra can be homemade, sold in fitness shops or health food stores, available online or found on a black market. The biggest problem with herbal Viagra is that there are literally millions of varieties containing any combination of herbs and chemicals that cannot be verified for content or safety because they are not under the regulations of medical testing or FDA guidelines. The dose and usage recommendations are generally unclear and unknown.

Lest you think the idea of herbal pills to increase sexual function is something new- consider this- herbal cures for sexual dysfunction have been around since prehistoric times. Cultures around the world have used rituals, herbs and the ingestion of various animals to attain super-sexual abilities, to little or no avail.

Why Are Viagra and Herbal Viagra Blamed for Strokes? 

Viagra is generally considered safe when used as directed by your health care provider. After years of testing and documentation of patient experience, the effects of Viagra and other medications for erectile dysfunction (Cialis, Levitra) are well understood. For example, it is well known that Viagra is not safe for individuals who take certain medications for HIV. Similarly, men who have some heart and blood vessel conditions cannot take Viagra due to its interactions with vascular blood flow. However, when used as directed and with the recommended precautions, it is not normally associated with heart attacks or strokes. In fact, documented cases of Viagra causing strokes are typically associated with overuse and abuse of Viagra.

The safety of herbal Viagra, on the other hand, is very hard to document because there is no way to track people who take it and many people who suffer from a stroke after taking herbal Viagra choose not to divulge that information. However, with the little data that is available, it appears that overuse of herbal preparations of Viagra can cause a variety of serious health problems, including stroke.

Overall, herbs are not necessarily always safe.

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  1. Vidale S, Di Palma F, Rezzonico M, Sampietro A, Arnaboldi M. Ischemic Stroke as Unusual Complication of Sildenafil Use, International Journal of Stroke. June 2015.

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