Confronting sex problems

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

September 14, 1993|By Joe Graedon and Dr. Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Dr. Teresa Graedon,Contributing Writers

Society is schizophrenic about sex. Turn on the TV, listen to a CD or flip through a magazine, and you will get the impression that we are obsessed with sex. Beautiful bodies in erotic poses sell everything from perfume to pantyhose.

Teen-agers can barely think about anything but sex. Adults tell them they are supposed to abstain, while the media stimulate their appetites.

Aging baby boomers, products of the "free love" generation, are discovering that sex is getting harder. Pressure from careers and families contributes to a growing problem of sexual dysfunction. Biological changes, hysterectomies, hormones and medications may also play a part. But people are reluctant to talk about their sexual difficulties.

Paul is 46 and manages a men's clothing store. Pressures at work and economic uncertainties led to depression, and Paul's doctor prescribed Prozac (fluoxetine). The feelings of hopelessness have lifted, but Paul is frustrated because for the first time in his life he is having trouble enjoying sex.

He is unable to reach an orgasm no matter how long he tries. His wife is also distressed and has asked Paul to check with his doctor. But such an intimate topic is hard for Paul to bring up, even with his physician.

Diane is also reluctant to talk to her doctor. Last year she had a hysterectomy and was put on hormone replacement therapy. Now she finds she is far less interested in sex than before. She goes through the motions and tries to meet her husband's desires, but it is a strain.

People like Paul and Diane don't have to suffer in silence. In many instances their difficulties can be traced to medications or changes in physiology. Alternative treatments may relieve much anguish. Women may find that the addition of testosterone after a total hysterectomy can be helpful in restoring libido. And not all antidepressants interfere with sexual performance.

One of the most common complaints we hear is that blood pressure medicines make it difficult to achieve and maintain an erection. A change in medication might solve the problem. If not, a urologist may be able to offer several alternatives. Erection injections have become routine for men suffering such difficulties. Drugs like papaverine, Regitine (phentolamine) and Prostin (PGE1 or alprostadil) have been used with surprising success.

Another option for erection difficulties is the vacuum pump. Surveys have found that such devices produce a high-level of patient satisfaction.

We have prepared a brochure for readers of this column that discusses some causes of sexual difficulties and approaches to treatment. Anyone who would like a copy of Drugs that Affect Sexuality, please send $2 with a long (No. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. Y-9, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717-2027.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist. Dr. Teresa Graedon is a medical anthropologist and nutrition expert.

' King Features Syndicate

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