For Women, 4 Alternatives to Viagra

The iconic drug is not the only way to fix sexual dysfunction.

A viagra tablet along with three other white tablets.
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Viagra and related erectile dysfunction drugs appear to counteract sexual dysfunction in some women taking antidepressants. But those pills aren't going to help all depressed women overcome a common side effect of their psychiatric medication. Depressed women whose testosterone levels are low are particularly unlikely to find sexual function restored by Viagra, says Anita Clayton, professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia and an expert in treatment-related sexual problems. Furthermore, Viagra can cause its own side effects, from headache to flushing, and can't be taken with nitrates, drugs typically prescribed for chest pain.

So, here are four alternatives to Viagra for women whose sexual problems are linked to taking an antidepressant:

1. Give it time. Since depression itself can dampen sexual function, Clayton advises waiting to try Viagra and other possible antidotes until the depression has been sufficiently tamed with medication. Also, antidepressant-related sexual side effects will sometimes dissipate on their own, says Robert Taylor Segraves, a professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, although it may take at least three to five months to do so.

2. Switch antidepressants. Sometimes switching to antidepressants that have lower risks of sexual side effects is an option, says Clayton, like bupropion (marketed as Wellbutrin), which doesn't interact with serotonin, the neurotransmitter that many antidepressants increase and is thought to be responsible for some of the sexual trouble.

3. Dose it down. In some cases, lowering the dose of an antidepressant may rid patients of their medication-induced sexual troubles, but doing so runs the risk of losing the antidepressant's effect, says Segraves. Neither Segraves nor Clayton recommends taking an "antidepressant vacation," although some doctors may suggest it. The danger: Interrupted treatment can lead to medication abandonment, withdrawal symptoms, or return of depression.

4. Other antidotes. The antianxiety drug buspirone (marketed as BuSpar) is thought to be another off-label antidote to sexual dysfunction induced by antidepressants, says Segraves.