Skip to main content

mental health mondays :: crazy sex

welcome back! clearly, i've taken a few days off, plus mhm has been away for the summer, so it's a double return with a slightly racy theme. well, not x-rated or anything, but today we are talking about the crossroads of mental health and getting busy.

there were a lot of recent headlines about the approval of a new drug dubbed the "female viagra" in the united states. flibanserin, sold under the brand name "addyi" is supposed to give women the renewed sexual vigour that viagra gives to men. equal opportunity crazy sex! but the little pink pill [get it? pink for girls and blue for boys? get it???] has created something of a backlash because of how it works and the condition it's supposed to treat. and as it turns out, it has a lot more to do with what's happening in your head than in your loins.

first, let's get one thing straight: flibanserin is in no way female viagra. viagra treats a physical disorder that prevents men from achieving an erection or acting on sexual desire. it works by increasing blood flow to the penis, which makes it easier for a man to get and maintain an erection. to truly be a "female viagra", a drug would have to treat something like a muscle spasm that caused women's vaginas to squeeze shut, but since that doesn't happen, there can be no equivalent medication for women.

instead, flibanserin is a completely different kind of drug that works on a completely different problem. it's prescribed to treat a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder, where the patient feels unable to become aroused. this is a particular issue for women approaching menopause, as hormone levels start to shift, so that even if a woman wants to have sex in theory, she rarely feels like having sex in reality. flibanserin works by modulating the neurotransmitters in the brain, maximizing the availability of those that help in an excitatory sexual response and minimizing those that provoke an inhibitory sexual response.

it turns out that the same neurotransmitters implicated in mood are the ones that affect our level of sexual desire. flibanserin started life as a prospective antidepressant, but despite repeated tests, it wasn't effective enough to cut it. while testing it out, however, the drug's makers [sprout pharmaceuticals] noticed that while it didn't make people happy, it did make them horny and thus was a new target market acquired.

flibanserin helps raise the levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, two neurotransmitters that tend to make us feel energetic and randy, while limiting the amount of available serotonin, something which makes us feel more calm and cuddly, but usually not sexy. as a result, women are more likely to become aroused and responsive more often. [and, as you've probably guessed, this explains why many people of both genders complain that antidepressants- which mostly increase serotonin levels in the brain- make them lose their interest in sex.] the idea is that by juicing the brain with sexy stuff and mopping up the substance that makes us a little more blasé, we'll be creating the conditions for a perfect sexual storm.

the drug claims that it will increase the incidence of "satisfying sexual encounters" for women and although the extent of the before/ after difference is subject to some debate, patients involved in testing did report an increased number of satisfying sexual encounters as a result of their improved libido. unfortunately, the drug also comes with some significant down sides: it can cause drops in blood pressure, especially when combined with alcohol [even a glass of wine is a big no-no]; it can cause both somnolence [i feel sleepy] and insomnia [i can't sleep], which is just a peach of a combo; and of course, it can interact with a lot of different drugs including antidepressants like ssrsi's and benzodiazepines.

it makes sense that taking two drugs that affect serotonin levels would be a no-no. although the actions of the two drugs would seem to offset each other, the antidepressants tend to amplify flibanserin's effects on the central nervous system- the drop in blood pressure that can lead to fainting or worse. given that a large number of premenopausal women [the largest target market for flibanserin] seek treatment for depression and anxiety occasioned by hormonal shifts, it's bound to be a bit frustrating that they'll be forced to choose which condition they'd rather treat, but such is life. what's interesting, however, is that no one's backed that argument up to its logical origin: if lady viagra plays around with the chemical soup that is your brain, what effect will it have on someone whose soup is a little too spicy to begin with?

for the people i just lost with that metaphor, i'll rephrase: it's fine to say that medications for depression can't be taken with this new drug, but what about depression itself? is this safe to take if you're suffering from or have been prone to depressions? although there have been some questions recently, research still suggests that people who are depressed have difficulty accessing the serotonin their bodies produce. so if a patient is already struggling with inadequate levels of serotonin, would it be dangerous for them to even start taking the flibanserin? there's nothing to stop their doctor from prescribing it, provided they aren't already taking drugs for depression. and since one of the frequent effects of depression is a loss of interest in sex, there's a lot of potential for chicken and egg confusion over what should actually be treated.

since flibanserin is being marketed as a libido aid, a sort of "sexual liberation drug" for women, questions about its effect on mental health aren't being asked. but the marketing masks the truth: flibanserin is a psychiatric medication. like all "crazy meds" it needs to be taken daily in order to be effective [unlike viagra, which can be taken as necessary]. like most antidepressants, it takes about a month to become effective. and like psychiatric meds, it modulates the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. the federal drug administration in america has already given its cautious approval after a massive campaign by the drug manufacturer [aided by a number of women's groups] that positioned flibanserin as being akin to birth control pills in its importance to women's control over their sexuality. i hope that when the manufacturer seeks approbation to sell in canada [coming soon] and in other countries, that they'll evaluate the drug based on what it is rather than how it's being sold.

p.s. :: at least one study has pointed to the possibility that there is already a female viagra, and it's viagra. women in the study reported it made them feel more aroused, increased lubrication and made it easier to achieve orgasm. in short, it offers a solution to the physical issues that can impede women's ability to enjoy sex.

Comments

as long as you're here, why not read more?

eat the cup 2018, part seven :: oh, lionheart

it all seemed so magical: england's fresh-faced youngsters marching all the way through to a semi-final for the first time since 1990. everywhere, the delirious chants of "it's coming home". and then, deep into added time, the sad realization: it's not coming home. oh england, my lionheart.

now, if we're being really strict about things, my scottish ancestors would probably disown me for supporting England, because those are the bastards who drove them off their land and sent them packing to this country that's too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter. and indeed, shops in scotland have sold through their entire stock of croatian jerseys, as the natives rallied behind england's opponents in the semi-final. however, a few generations before they were starved and hounded from the lands they'd occupied for centuries, my particular brand of scottish ancestors would have encouraged me to support england [assuming that national football had even…

dj kali & mr. dna @ casa del popolo post-punk night

last night was a blast! a big thank you to dj tyg for letting us guest star on her monthly night, because we had a great time. my set was a little more reminiscent of the sets that i used to do at katacombes [i.e., less prone to strange meanderings than what you normally hear at the caustic lounge]. i actually invited someone to the night with the promise "don't worry, it'll be normal". which also gives you an idea of what to expect at the caustic lounge. behold my marketing genius.

mr. dna started off putting the "punk" into the night [which i think technically means i was responsible for the post, which doesn't sound quite so exciting]. i'd say that he definitely had the edge in the bouncy energy department.

many thanks to those who stopped in throughout the night to share in the tunes, the booze and the remarkably tasty nachos and a special thank you to the ska boss who stuck it out until the end of the night and gave our weary bones a ride home…

friday favourites 20.07.12

i was almost going to skip it this week. not out of any disinterest, but i always feel weird posting something flip and cheeky on days when the news is choked with stories of some location filled with people going about their lives suddenly getting shot up by a lone maniac with some sort of personal gripe or agenda.

awful things happen every single day. people who lead otherwise normal lives are suddenly transformed through violence every single day. by the harsh standards of the world, what happened last night in aurora, colorado isn't even close to the worst. i'm sure families in syria would consider a day where ten people died to be better than average. but there is something about these completely random mass shootings in otherwise fairly peaceful places that haunts us all here in the western world. it happened today with aurora. it happened a year ago sunday in norway. it happened in another colorado town, now synonymous with the terror of such a massacre in 1999.

what h…