‘Female Viagra’ Probably Isn’t the Best Way to Boost Your Sex Drive

For most women, these five libido-boosting tips work better than Addyi.

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When Viagra was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998, men dealing with erectile dysfunction finally saw a glimmer of hope. Here was a drug that could revitalize their sex lives—and it truly worked, simply by boosting blood flow.

For years, women had no such drug available to them. Then, in 2015, flibanserin (brand name: Addyi) was finally approved by the FDA for women with hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), a science-y term that simply means you’re feeling a chronic lack of sexual desire, fantasies, or activity that causes significant distress.

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Addyi was controversial thanks to stereotypes surrounding female sexuality.

But as more research was done and real women began taking the tablets, controversy around Addyi quickly grew. Some major concerns? Its lofty price (the average 30-day supply comes in at nearly $1,000) and potentially dangerous side effects.

Still, Addyi was the first drug of its kind, and had to break through some serious misconceptions about female sexuality, “which is, in part, why it is so controversial,” explains Stephanie Faubion, MD, director of the Women’s Health Clinic and Office of Women’s Health at the Mayo Clinic.

Now, the drug is being relaunched by Sprout Pharmaceuticals at half the price, or around $400, reports the Chicago Tribune. Women without insurance coverage will still pay no more than $99 per month.

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So, should you try Addyi to boost your sex drive if you can afford it? Here’s everything you need to know about “female viagra” and whether or not it will work for you.

First, how does Addyi work?


The term “female Viagra” is a bit misleading, since Addyi really is “nothing like Viagra,” explains Dr. Faubion. For one, Addyi should only be prescribed to premenopausal women with HSDD. That means you should really only resort to the drug if your low sex drive isn’t caused by something else, like a physical or mental health condition, relationship problems, or other medications, says the FDA.

“It is not an arousal drug,” says Dr. Faubion. “It is a drug that alters the balance of brain neurotransmitters in favor of those that are more excitatory, rather than inhibitory.”

Translation: Instead of boosting blood flow to your genitals, like traditional Viagra for men, Addyi targets neurotransmitters in your brain that are linked to sexual function. It amps up dopamine and norepinephrine, which makes you feel turned on, while it tamps down serotonin, a chemical that usually gets in the way of your sexual desire.

“It is modestly effective in terms of improving sexual desire for women with true HSDD,” says Dr. Faubion. Clinical trials show that women experience small, albeit “meaningful,” improvements to their sex life while taking Addyi, according to the FDA. One 2016 review and meta-analysis concluded that taking flibanserin barely resulted in just one additional satisfying sexual event per month, meaning more research needs to be done to determine how effective the treatment really is.

What are the side effects of Addyi?


Most of Addyi’s controversy is rooted in its unpleasant side effects. Here are a few to expect:

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  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness and fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Severely low blood pressure

    The most dangerous side effects stem from Addyi’s interaction with alcohol. Women who drink or have liver problems should not take Addyi, as it can cause dangerously lower your blood pressure and make you pass out. In fact, patients are asked to sign an agreement stating they will not drink alcohol while taking the drug. Other medications can also interact with Addyi, so you need to be upfront with your doctor about any other medications you’re taking.

    For most women, there are better ways to boost sex drive than taking Addyi


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    Studies show that up to 43 percent of women have a low sexual desire—but roughly 10 percent are truly dealing with HSDD, according to one 2013 review of research.

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    In reality, Addyi should really be considered on a case-by-case basis. “It would be a mistake to encourage all women to try this drug,” says Dr. Faubion. “It won’t fix a relationship problem, an anxiety issue, or a body image problem. This is for true HSDD—low sexual desire that has persisted and is not due to another condition.”

    A vast variety of things could be messing with your sex drive, says Dr. Faubion. Here are five other fixes to consider before you opt for Addyi.

    If you have an underlying health condition...

    Health conditions like heart disease or thyroid dysfunction, mood disorders like anxiety and depression, or even certain medications can cause your libido to plummet.

    Sex drive solution: You won’t get to the root of the problem until you talk to your doctor. Your first step is to figure out if something else is squashing your sex drive and to treat that first to see if the problem still persists.

    If you're stressed...

    Stress hormones like cortisol have been linked to a lagging libido.

    Sex drive solution: Being more mindful can work wonders, as it may help out balance out the chemicals that affect sexual desire in your brain. Plus, taking the time to meditate or just focus on your breathing can help reduce stress hormones. Start with 15 to 20 minutes of meditation per day. (Here are three quick meditations anyone can do.)

    If your relationship is a bit rocky...

    No relationship is perfect, and both you and your partner might experience changes in your libido as you age. However, sex is a huge part of any relationship, and things can get tense when there’s not a lot of touching going on. Try to reignite some emotional intimacy, because most women need to feel both mentally and physically turned on.

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    Sex drive solution: The best way to do that? Set aside some alone time. Start by having a weekly date night so you have a dedicated day of the week to connect. You should also prioritize sex, so pick a day on your calendar and make it a part of your routine. You’ll not only feel happier in your relationship, but physically, you’ll experience more pelvic blood flow and vaginal moisture. The more you do it, the more you’ll continue to do it.

    If your sex life is lackluster...

    After you've been in a relationship with the same person for a while, it's not unusual to get stuck in a rut.

    Sex drive solution: Foreplay, foreplay, foreplay! Spend at least 15 to 20 minutes kissing and touching to help build arousal. (These foreplay tips are worth a shot.) From an emotional standpoint, you’ll feel closer to your partner. Physically, your vagina will produce more lubrication to make sex feel better.

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    If you don’t feel in tune with your body...

    It’s hard to feel excited for sex when you lack confidence.

    Sex drive solution: To become more comfortable with your own anatomy and sexual urges, don’t be afraid to explore down there. Research shows that masturbating can make you feel more turned on, lead to more sexual fantasies, and help you reach orgasm faster. May we suggest one of these sex toys for your next solo party?

    Additional reporting by Cassie Shortsleeve

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