The Dangers of Gas Station Sex Pills

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Updated 13/04/2023

Ah yes, the gas station: the easiest place to buy a case of beer, a handful of scratcher tickets and an unregulated medication for erectile dysfunction that may kill you. The perfect one-stop shop.

One thing in that last sentence was technically wrong, and it’s not the part about something at a gas station killing you (trust us — we’ve had the burritos). We’re talking about how over-the-counter sex pills aren't ED medications. 

That’s right — those tiger-clad packets of capsules, powders and other supposed male enhancement dietary supplements are not FDA-approved erectile dysfunction drugs.

If you’re suffering from ED, there are a lot of places you can turn for help, but the store shelves of the Sunoco down the street shouldn’t be one of them.

The reasons why include:

  • Natural ingredients that lack rigorous research support 

  • A lack of approval, oversight and safety standards from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

  • Are sold at a gas station, within eyeshot of the dollar roller-dogs and the iPhone 4 charging cables

  • Illegal ingredients that aren’t supposed to be included

 In all seriousness, these gas station supplements are something you want to avoid. To learn why and what to do about ED instead, read on.

Types of Gas Station Sex Pills

Some of the gas station sexual enhancement products on the market today have built themselves decent brand recognition as over-the-counter sex pills. These gray area (fake) gas station Viagra doses don’t need to be prescribed by a healthcare professional. 

A few of the brand name enhancement supplements include:

There may be eleven more on retailers’ shelves by the time you read this, such as the Stree Overlord pill. The truth is that even the FDA has trouble keeping up with the number of products on shelves, and most of those products lack anything in the way of confidence-inspiring scientific backing. Here are some info highlights about the most common ingredients in these OTC mystery penis packs:

  • Horny goat weed (also called epidendrum) has been shown to provide small benefits to erectile dysfunction in testing on animals (no, they weren’t goats). But there are no significant human studies showing whether or not these effects can translate to people. 

  • Red ginseng products lack much scientific evidence to show any value for ED treatment. Our blog has more research on ginseng and ED.

  • Yohimbine may increase sex drive, but it also isn’t clear how Yohimbine compares in effectiveness to regular ED medications. It can also have a lot of side effects (including some serious ones). 

  • Nizagara contains ingredients like L-arginine, red berry, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid, which have occasionally been linked to ED health benefits. Unfortunately, Nizagara contains an unlabeled ingredient, too: Viagra’s active ingredient, sildenafil. 

There’s not much to substantiate any of the claims about these products, and none of them have been tested in humans at scale or approved by the FDA for use as an ED treatment.

Are Gas Station Sex Pills Safe?

Are these things safe? No. Like, not even remotely. 

Not only is there no medical rigor attached to their claims, but compared with established prescription drugs, they’re decades behind in terms of testing. That has led to shoddy claims, inaccurate labeling and even the illegal inclusion of prescription medications. 

In 2015 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a public notification to consumers that many products marketed as “herb Viagra” aren’t safe. The reason? These convenience store herbal supplements actually contained sildenafil, the active ingredient in the real version of Viagra, which is both illegal and not disclosed in the ingredients list.

When the “dot gov” folks get involved, it’s never a good sign. Yes, that sildenafil is technically the ingredient you want, but you don’t want it in unmonitored, random intervals. Fifty milligrams of sildenafil? Cool. Five-hundred milligrams of sildenafil? Big nope. 

And this was just one of many cases in which unlabeled ingredients were found in similar products — enough to remove many of the ones you would have seen on shelves a decade ago and replace them with new ones.

In 2013, the Pharmacognosy Review concluded, “Due to unavailability of the safety data, unclear mechanisms, and lack of knowledge to support the extensive use of these substances, uses of these products may be risky to the human being.”

Tainted sexual enhancement products can lead to heart attack and sudden changes in blood pressure — not a cheap evening of consequence-free, better sex.

So, sorry to burst the bubble here, but you’re not going to find safe and effective ED treatment on the same wall where the bags of beef jerky and Bic® lighters are kept.

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Side Effects and Risks of Gas Station Sex Pills 

What gas station penis pills lack in scientific backing for their benefits, they more than make up for in risks and side effects.

Seriously, look at the side effects of just a few of the “natural ingredients” commonly found in OTC ED supplements:

  • Yohimbine can cause insomnia, hypertension and sweating.

  • Ginseng can cause constipation and rash, and can be dangerous for people with diabetes. 

  • Ginkgo biloba can cause seizures in rare cases.

  • L-arginine researchers actually stopped a study early because six people (six!) died, compared with zero in the placebo group. 

That’s the stuff that’s supposed to be in these pills. Read that again.

And don’t forget that some of these supplements can cause a variety of symptoms like headaches and blood pressure fluctuations similar to those experienced with improperly dosed prescription ED medications — in some cases because they illegally contain improperly dosed ED medications. 

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Do Gas Station Pills Work?

Do gas station boner pills for ED work? At this point, we’re hoping the answer is pretty clear. But just in case: no.

There seems to be no reliable information indicating otherwise. 

Yes, in the case of the pills that illegally contain any amount of actual sildenafil, they should, in theory, offer the same benefits as Viagra. But, as we said above, Viagra is only truly effective when prescribed at the dose you need for your ED. 

Going to a gas station for ED treatment instead of a healthcare professional may not sound too outrageous. Until you apply that logic to other types of healthcare. How about we start going to gas stations for antidepressants, for instance? Or how about we petition to have them carry insulin — maybe right next to the candy shelf? Talk about service! 

If you’re worried about the conversation with a healthcare provider or the health consequences, neither gets better by waiting to seek the proper treatment. 

And speaking of proper treatment, the ones below are how you get your mojo back.

What You Should Take Instead of Gas Station “Viagra”

Medication for erectile dysfunction should always be prescribed by a trained and certified healthcare professional, not Steve, who’s always apologizing about the broken slushy machine. Seriously, thanks for nothing, Steve.

A healthcare professional is going to direct you to safe and effective medications called phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors. PDE5 inhibitors keep you hard by keeping the blood vessels in your penis dilated and your corpora cavernosa engorged. 

There are several types you may have heard of:

  • Sildenafil (active ingredient of Viagra) is typically used 60 minutes before sex and can provide about four hours of erectile dysfunction symptom relief.

  • Tadalafil (active ingredient of Cialis®) can provide up to 36 hours of game time per dose.

  • Vardenafil (active ingredient of Levitra®) like Viagra, is also used 60 minutes before sex, but tends to last a little longer, for your director’s cut-types.

  • Avanafil (active ingredient of Stendra®can work in 15 minutes. It’s a newer ED drug, and research shows fewer side effects with Avanafil than older drugs.

Several of these have been used to treat hypertension in the past (and still are), so if you’re currently receiving other blood pressure treatments, you’ll want to let your healthcare provider know.

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Finding a Safe Alternative to Gas Station Sex Pills 

ED is a fairly common health condition associated with heart disease, high blood pressure and blood flow. It affects an estimated 30 million to 50 million men nationally. That’s one in four guys. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

We get that some men feel self-conscious about ED, but if you’re buying a gas station erection pill to avoid going to the doctor, just go to the doctor. Similar to Spanish fly and other proclaimed effective, alternative treatments for ED, these products are all flash and no substance. Embarrassment is a ground-level problem though, so let us give you some perspective:

  • A healthcare professional will be much less judgmental than the people in line behind you, and you won’t have to buy a Snickers® to disguise your purchase.

  • Healthcare providers can give you tailored medical advice, which is the most direct route to safe and effective treatment. 

  • They can screen for health conditions commonly associated with ED symptoms — from obesity and diabetes to anxiety and depression — and get you help for those, as well. 

In addition to lifestyle changes and therapy, you might also receive recommendations for medications we mentioned, like tadalafil or sildenafil (Cialis or Viagra). 

You may end up with a different medication altogether, which is fine. Just make sure that it’s safe and effective and not next to a rotating hot dog warmer. Your own weiner will thank you.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.

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