How Long Does Viagra Last?

How long does Viagra last? Whether you’re yet to take the drug or you’re not satisfied with how long it remains active, it’s vital that you learn the answer to that question.

However, it’s always better to have a broader understanding of how the medication works—mainly if your goal is to lengthen, as well as boost, its effectiveness.

In this article, we’re going to discuss the most exciting things about Viagra, and in the process answer some of the most common questions.

A Turning Point in Medicine

Viagra’s discovery as a treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) was an unintentional event in medical history.

It was 1989, and a group of researchers from Pfizer was testing sildenafil, a compound intended to be used to treat conditions such as pulmonary arterial hypertension and angina pectoris. However, clinical trials revealed that the drug was a failure in addressing those health issues.

Interestingly, in the same clinical trials, it was realized that the drug could improve penile function. Participants of the study reported that the drug-induced erections.

More clinical trials were made, leading Pfizer to market sildenafil for ED, rather than for angina. The drug got its patent in 1996 and was approved for use in ED treatment by the FDA in March 1998 (1).

Later that year, the drug entered the market under the brand name Viagra, whose sales peaked in 2008—almost reaching the $2 billion mark.

Currently, Viagra is finally available in generic form and can be purchased over the counter in some regions. In 2018, the wholesale cost of the drug was placed at approximately $1 for a single dose.

Understanding Penile Erection

To truly appreciate the blue pill, you need first to broaden your knowledge of the male organ.

The penis’ longest part is called shaft, with its upper part called head or glans. The glans has a hole in the middle, which is where urine and semen are released. That hole is called meatus.

Running along the length of the shaft, specifically within it, are two chambers called corpora cavernosa. These cylinder-shaped chambers house a network of blood vessels, open pockets, and tissues.

Below these two chambers run the urethra—the tube where semen and urine pass through. The urethra is contained in a spongy tissue called corpus spongiosum.

In each of the corpora cavernosa, some arteries and veins allow the movement of blood in and out. These also contain nerves that serve as channels of communication to and from the other parts of the body.

Erection is just a response to a message from the brain. It occurs in response to sexual stimuli, initiating a cascade of events that ultimately leads to increased blood flow towards the male organ (2).

In particular, your penile arteries relax so that more blood can surge in while the veins lock the blood inside. Once the blood is inside, pressure builds up in the corpora cavernosa, allowing for the expansion and erection of your penis.

Once the blood stops flowing in, and the veins open again, the pressure will subside. This lets your penis to once again revert to its flaccid state.

Viagra’s Pharmacological Action

Since you now have a better understanding of the male organ and the processes it undergoes, we can finally tackle the next question: what role does Viagra play in inducing penile erection?

When ingested, the little blue pill passes through the intestine to enter the bloodstream. As a drug, its normal activity after entering circulation is to bind to erythrocytes and eventually reach the site of action (3).

Upon reaching its site of action, Viagra accelerates vasodilation, and the effects of nitric oxide (NO) mediated signaling. However, it’s only through the presence of sexual stimuli that NO can be released into the corpora cavernosa.

Upon release, NO binds to the enzyme guanylate cyclase, which in turn synthesizes cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP).

This compound is actually a signaling molecule whose functions include causing the smooth muscles to relax and the blood vessels to dilate. These effects allow for the increase of blood flow and support penile erection.

On the other hand, there’s a regulatory mechanism that controls the flow of blood into the penis. The enzyme is responsible for this phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5). It inhibits cGMP and its signaling action, thereby preventing erection.

Viagra has two features that allow it to reverse the action of PDE5. One, it is similar to cGMP and two, it competes with the PDE5.

The drug hinders PDE5 from binding with cGMP and thus, blocks the degradation of cGMP. The entire process then results in a better inflow of blood to the penis’ corpora cavernosa (4).

So, How Long Does Viagra Last?

Viagra is rapidly absorbed into the blood, often reaching optimal levels within an hour or two after dosing.

On the other hand, its half-life is 5 hours. This means that the drug remains in your system for at least 5 hours. One study even suggests that it can last up to 12 hours (5).

It doesn’t mean, however, that your erection will last that long. Also, don’t expect the drug to work at the same extent throughout the entirety of its half-life. It’s often most potent during the second or third hour after being ingested, gradually dropping in effectiveness afterward.

Still, you’ll have an increased capacity to get an erection as long as the drug remains in your system. And yes, you will have the chance to get hard even after you’ve reached orgasm—assuming that the refractory period has passed and there are sexual stimuli.

Taking more than a single dose of Viagra in a day isn’t safe though. So, if ever the period does pass and you’re no longer able to have an erection, you must wait until the next day before taking another pill.

Understanding the Pill’s Potency

Is there a way to lengthen the time Viagra stays in your body? Is it possible to make a single dose even more potent? Well, six things can affect how well the drug works, namely your state of mind, how healthy you are, the other meds you’re taking, your diet, your age, and the dose you’re given.

  • Mental State and the Fight Against ED

ED isn’t merely a problem with blood flow. It can be caused by a myriad of factors, including those that are psychological. Stress and anxiety, for example, are enough to prevent proper brain signaling, hindering blood flow from being directed to the penis.

Among young men, stress and anxiety remain as the top cause of ED (6). These psychogenic triggers are temporary, and so, the erection issues they create are short-term. What’s rather unfortunate, though, is the fact that stress and anxiety have become far too common.

Middle-aged men tend to face issues both personally and professionally, meaning they’re prone to ED’s psychological triggers as well. Relationship woes and problems at work (or losing a job) can lead to the development of sexual dysfunction.

Those of advanced age, despite facing greater challenges of physiological nature, aren’t immune to psychological factors. The passing of a partner, for example, may result in depression. And the emotions associated with depression could shut off pleasure or stimulation (7).

With these in mind, one thing becomes clear: to lengthen Viagra’s effects and to maximize its potency, you have to improve your psychological state.

If you’re stressed out, try to practice relaxation techniques (e.g., meditation). Depending on the situations you commonly face, learning to say no and accepting that you can’t control everything might help in lowering your stress.

As for anxiety and depression, it would be best to seek professional help. Talk therapy or counseling involves creating a plan to tackle both issues effectively. It may include activities aimed towards improving your communication and problem-solving skills.

  • Health Concerns vs. the Little Blue Pill

Some illnesses tend to limit Viagra’s effects and duration. Diabetes, for one, can lower the amount of blood sent to the penis—aside from damaging the nerves necessary in triggering an erection. Low testosterone has also been linked with the metabolic disorder (8).

Although Viagra might help if the issue stems from limited blood flow, it wouldn’t be able to exert its full effects given the other problems that come with diabetes. In fact, it’s unlikely for the little blue pill to work if the nerves themselves have been severely damaged.

With that said, it’s to be expected that illnesses centered on the nervous system will hinder the drug from working as effectively and as long as it should. Multiple sclerosis (MS), for example, is a disease wherein nerves throughout the spinal cord and brain are damaged.

Viagra may still improve erections in those afflicted with MS, but combination therapies are usually necessary to overcome sexual dysfunction in more advanced cases (9).

While it’s true that some aspects of health are beyond your control, you’ll still want to keep yourself as healthy as possible if you wish to make the most of Viagra. Eat right, get enough exercise, and have regular checkups to keep diseases at bay.

  • Medications against the ED Medication

Depending on how they work, medications may interfere with the little blue pill as it tries to improve blood flow towards the penis. Clarithromycin, an antibiotic prescribed for common bacterial infections, keeps the liver from effectively processing Viagra (10).

This means the ED drug stays longer in your system. You might think that this is advantageous, mainly if the goal is to extend the duration at which the blue pill remains active. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be wise to take antibiotics just for this reason.

Also, keep in mind that having too much sildenafil in your bloodstream doesn’t necessarily translate to better benefits. It’s mostly the same as taking an excessively large dose of Viagra, a practice that may bring increased side effect risk.

If you need a prescription for the ED drug while you’re on antibiotics, be sure to tell your doctor about it. Be as specific as possible in giving information related to the medications you’re taking.

By the way, this isn’t limited to antibacterial drugs. Other medications may also interact with Viagra—some even capable of putting you in life-threatening situations. Nitrates, for example, may dangerously lower your blood pressure when taken with the ED drug.

  • Things You Eat and Drink Affect Viagra

Viagra can be taken with or without food, but does diet affect its duration and effectiveness? There are conflicting reports about this. Some studies indicate that there’s no significant loss of efficacy if it is taken shortly before a meal or with a meal (11).

Others suggest food can slow down the rate of absorption of Viagra, potentially creating a delay of up to an hour (12). Taking the medication after a meal only makes it harder for the body to process.

Probably, the question shouldn’t be focused too much on the presence of food along with the ED drug. Instead, we should pay attention to the kind and amount of food.

Having a large meal will slow down the rate at which Viagra gets into the bloodstream. Enjoying food that’s loaded with fat will have the same effect. The amount of food and its fat content tend to serve as barriers to digestion and metabolism, affecting other drugs as well.

There’s an upside to this, however, since the ED medication gets to stay for more extended periods in the body. It may help prolong the drug’s duration of effectiveness, although at the expense of potency. Think of it as taking several small doses instead of one big pill.

Alcoholic beverages may also interfere with Viagra, mainly by limiting the amount of blood that gets into your penis. This goes against the medication’s essential function. Despite that, alcohol can improve receptiveness to sexual stimuli due to its inhibition-lowering effect.

So, you really don’t have to avoid alcohol altogether, especially if you need it to become more outgoing. You just have to take it in moderation. Go for an amount that’s sufficient to fuel your urges, but not enough to keep you from getting fully erect.

  • Downsides and Perks of Advanced Age

Like any other drug, Viagra needs to be metabolized to provide its benefits. However, people have different metabolic rates—and as it seems, the older you are, the slower your metabolism becomes (13).

While you can’t escape this gradual shift, you can at least keep the change as minimal as possible. By following a good fitness routine, you should have a metabolic rate that’s higher than those of sedentary individuals. That difference can be maintained later in life (14).

With a relatively faster metabolic rate, you should be able to feel Viagra’s peak effects within a shorter timeframe. This could make it easier to time your intake when anticipating intercourse.

However, it cannot be denied that there’s an advantage to having a slow metabolism. The drug will remain for longer in your system, meaning you may notice its effects throughout a higher duration. There’s no guarantee though that it’ll still be at optimal potency.

  • Higher Dose Leads to Longer Duration

As you’d expect, a bigger dose should last longer than a smaller one. So, if you’re aiming to lengthen the time that Viagra stays active, should you simply take the biggest dose available?

The answer’s no. Although it’s already available over-the-counter in some regions, the ED drug still comes with risks and doesn’t work on all cases of sexual dysfunction.

If you feel like the medication’s effects are fading far too quickly, you should visit your doctor. Find out whether you merely require a bigger dose, or there’s something else that needs to be tackled—something that Viagra won’t be able to fix, even temporarily.

Side Effects from Viagra Intake

The pill’s cGMP-binding effect doesn’t trigger adverse reactions. Instead, it is the vasodilatory properties of the drug that causes most, if not all, of the side effects associated with it.

To be clear, though, the side effects that Viagra produces are mild, short-lived, and dose-related (15). The bigger the dose is, the more likely it is that the patient will experience side effects.

What are the most common adverse reactions caused by the little blue pill? Well, there’s flushing (skin or face becoming red and hot), headache, nasal congestion, and heartburn (acid-induced burning sensation in the chest).

In a study, about 30% of those who took Viagra experienced flushing, 25% suffered from headaches, 18% developed nasal congestion, and 10% got heartburn.

Although the numbers seem high, it’s important to note that none of the participants ended up having to withdraw from the study. This is because none of the adverse effects were severe or acute.

For the sake of being as thorough as possible, here we have a list of other side effects that can be caused by Viagra:

  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Back pain
  • Memory problems
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Loss of hearing
  • Dizziness
  • Inability to distinguish the color green from blue

Keep in mind that people with cardiovascular conditions who are told to refrain from engaging in sex shouldn’t take the little blue pill. Aside from that, if ever you experience extended erections of more than 4 hours, immediately seek medical assistance.

Loss of vision should be treated the same way. If you suddenly lose sight in one eye or both, call your doctor at once.

Top Three Alternatives to Viagra

Now that you’ve learned about the ups and downs of Viagra, and how there are limitations in extending the duration it remains in your system, you might be thinking of looking for alternatives. Well, other PDE5 inhibitors were developed after the blue pill was approved in 1998.

  • Vardenafil

This drug is sold under the names Levitra, Vivanza (in Italy), and Staxyn (in India). It’s available in 2.5, 5, 10, and 20 mg doses, to be taken at most 2 hours before sexual activity. Its recommended starting dose is 10 mg.

The most common side effect of this drug is nausea. Don’t take more than one dose per day. While higher doses should have greater efficacy, there seems to be no significant difference between the 10 mg and 20 mg doses (16).

  • Avanafil

Approved by the FDA in 2012, Avanafil is sold under the brand names Spedra and Stendra.

In a study, it was shown that it could reach a maximum blood concentration within 45 minutes. About 66% of the participants were able to engage in sexual activity in just 15 minutes (17).

Avanafil’s side effects are similar to those of Viagra, though.

The starting dose is usually 100 mg. Based on tolerability and efficacy, the dose may be decreased to 50 mg taken 30 minutes before sex or increased to 200 mg 15 minutes before sex.

As always, the smallest dose that provides the needed effects should be used.

  • Tadalafil

Approved for medical use in 2003, tadalafil is often taken as needed. Aside from its applications in managing ED, the drug is also used to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Tadalafil’s most common side effects are stomach discomfort, headache, burping, indigestion, back pain, acid reflux, flushing, muscle ache, and runny or stuffy nose. These, however, usually go away after a few hours.

Cialis and Adcirca are two known brand names for tadalafil. These medications can be purchased in their 2.5, 5, 10, and 20 mg oral tablet forms.

Viagra’s Effectiveness Timeframe

The little blue pill has been shown to be a safe and powerful treatment for ED. It can even be considered an excellent long-term solution due to its high level of tolerability and mild side effects that do not last long.

Consult your doctor for the right dose, and don’t be too eager to purchase the drug despite its increased accessibility as of late. You could end up wasting your money by taking the wrong dose, or you might worsen the side effects.

How long does Viagra last? As you’ve learned, it can remain active for 5 hours or even longer—it all depends on your health, your mental state, your diet, your age, the dose you’re given, and the other meds that you’re taking.

If you have other questions about the drug or its alternatives, just leave a message in the comments section below.

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