Style Sex & Relationships

Friday 6 December 2019

Sexual healing: Is a nasal spray the new Viagra?

Library Image.
Library Image.
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

Scientists believe they may have found a new cure for man's unspoken woe.

Napoleon apparently suffered from it, but lorded over an empire.

Formula One legend Sir Sterling Moss had a similar problem, but overcame it with the help of modern medicine, while countless numbers of Irish men will, at some point, apologise to their partners for suffering from the affliction.

"It" is erectile dysfunction, impotence, brewer's droop or a host of other names you care to choose.

Affecting millions worldwide, not until 1998 and the invention of Viagra did it become a talked-about subject in Irish households.

Prior to the little blue pill appearing on the market, impotence wasn't spoken about, with treatment ranging from grisly medical interventions or counselling, and sometimes both.

But now scientists believe the problem can be overcome by taking a nasal spray.

Researchers have discovered that a hormone used to induce labour could also be as sexually arousing to men as Viagra.

A US study found that a man who sniffed a spray containing oxytocin twice daily became more affectionate to friends and colleagues, and recorded a marked improvement in sexual performance.

His libido, apparently, went from "weak to strong", while arousal went from "difficult to easy".

And his ego was also positively affected, with his partner classifying his sexual performance as "very satisfying".

How it works is not clear, but some studies suggested that oxytocin levels rise naturally during arousal. The hormone is also thought to interact with the dopamine system, which 'rewards' sexual activity.

The study, 'Dramatic Improvement in Sexual Function Induced by Intranasal Oxytocin', was reported in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. But the treatment is not yet available, so an instant cure may be some way off. But what is erectile dysfunction, and what causes it?

Simply put, it's the inability to achieve or maintain an erection for sexual intercourse. The Irish Heart Foundation says one in 10 Irish men are affected, but occasional failure does not constitute a problem.

It can be caused by injury, excessive drinking, heavy smoking or side effects from certain drugs including antidepressants or those used to treat high blood pressure.

Psychological reasons such as depression, stress, relationship problems and anxieties about how you will perform can also result in a problem.

Dr Tom Kelly, an expert in the area with the Everyman Centre on Dublin's Mount Street, has been working in the field since 1978 and says that most of his clients are men aged between 17 and 30.

"They might lack confidence in themselves," he says. "Sometimes it's young men trying to have sex in inappropriate circumstances, like meeting a woman in a pub and he's under pressure to perform because his friends know about it.

"I see a lot of youngish men who can achieve erections in particular circumstances, but can't keep it with a partner. The function is there, but there's a psychological issue. The penis isn't really the problem, it's more to do with arousal or they're not ready for sex."

Prior to 1998 and Viagra coming on to the market, finding a cure was far more difficult. Sufferers had a number of medical options, all of which seem mechanical or, in some cases, grisly.

One involved an injection into the penis, but the idea of sticking a needle into their manhood turned a lot off.

There was also surgery, where a flexible silicon rod was inserted into the penis, or an inflatable prosthesis used. Neither was very popular.

A third method involved placing a cylinder on to the member, pumping the air out which created a vacuum and drew blood into the penis, creating an erection.

Again, not popular because it was mechanical and interfered with spontaneity.

But then in 1998 everything changed when Viagra came onto the market. Known as a PDE-5 inhibitor, it works by encouraging the arteries to pump more blood to the penis.

The little blue pill replaced previous cures discussed since antiquity including sparrow's brains, oysters and, most commonly, alcohol.

"Viagra transformed everything, but an erection will only be produced if there's arousal," Dr Kelly says. "If you take it and you're going to meet the taxman for an audit, you won't get an erection. If a person is anxious, it won't work.

"But a lot of men come to me because they don't want to be reliant on a drug for the rest of their lives. Treatment varies greatly from person to person, and while it tends to be more of a medical problem, psychology comes into it as well."

A lot has changed in the area of sexual health in the last few years, as men become more willing to talk about these problems.

"Until recently, it was the partner that made the appointment to see me," he adds. "Men are more likely to phone for an appointment themselves now.

"It's more acceptable, people talk about it more.

"Men know it's a recognised condition, and I've noticed that some men will speak to their friends about it more and more. It hits men quite hard, because there's a sense that they're not a real man."

But for some who overcome their difficulty, the condition can be turned into a joke.

Former Republican US presidential nominee Bob Dole famously did an ad for Viagra after being affected after a bout of prostate cancer.

He later took the mickey out of himself, going onto to do another ad for his other "little blue friend" which "made him feel vital again" -- a can of Pepsi Cola.

Irish Independent

Editors Choice

Also in this section