Xanax and Erectile Dysfunction: Can Xanax Cause ED?
Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Xanax®, or alprazolam, is one of the most commonly used prescription medications in the United States. Although there aren’t any studies that link Xanax to erectile dysfunction, some research shows that Xanax and other benzodiazepines may cause certain sexual performance issues.
It’s also possible that some of the conditions Xanax is prescribed to treat, such as anxiety, may cause erectile dysfunction.
Below, we’ve explained how medications such as Xanax might affect your sexual performance, as well as the effects that anxiety and panic disorders may have on your ability to develop and maintain an erection.
We’ve also talked about what you can do to treat ED and enhance your sexual performance if you use Xanax or similar medication to treat an anxiety or panic disorder.
Xanax and ED: The Basics
Xanax, which contains the active ingredient alprazolam, is a benzodiazepine that’s used to treat a range of anxiety and panic disorders.
Although ED isn’t specifically listed as a side effect of Xanax, benzodiazepines such as Xanax are known to cause some forms of sexual dysfunction.
Since Xanax works by reducing excitement in your brain, you may feel drowsy after you take it. This could affect your interest in sex and general sexual performance.
If you’re prescribed Xanax to treat anxiety, it’s possible that your anxiety disorder could be the cause of your erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction, including ED caused by medication, is treatable. If you would like to take action and treat ED, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider.
What is Xanax?
Xanax, which contains the active ingredient alprazolam, is a medication that’s prescribed to treat anxiety and panic disorders. It belongs to a class of medications known as benzodiazepines and works by binding to certain receptors in your brain to reduce excitement.
After you take Xanax, you’ll generally feel more relaxed and less likely to experience symptoms of anxiety.
Like many other benzodiazepines, Xanax is usually an effective treatment for anxiety and panic disorders when it’s used as prescribed. However, it can cause a range of side effects and, when misused, can be habit-forming.
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a common form of male sexual dysfunction in which you may find it difficult or impossible to get or maintain an erection.
Although ED is commonly associated with older men, it can affect men of all ages. In fact, data suggests that approximately 30 million men in the United States are affected by some degree of erectile dysfunction.
Like other forms of sexual dysfunction, ED can vary in severity. Some men with ED may not be able to get an erection at all. Others may find it difficult to get a firm enough erection for sex, or to maintain an erection that lasts long enough to have satisfying sex with their partner.
When erectile dysfunction gets in the way of your sex life, it can contribute to frustration, stress and other issues. Luckily, almost all cases of ED are treatable, usually with medication, lifestyle changes or a combination of different approaches.
Does Xanax Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
Sometimes, erectile dysfunction is caused by medication. Medications that are known to cause or contribute to ED include blood pressure medications, appetite suppressants, antidepressants and medications that affect your levels of androgens, or male sex hormones.
Tranquilizers, or prescription drugs used to promote calmness, are also occasionally associated with ED.
Currently, there’s very little scientific research that looks specifically at the relationship between Xanax and erectile dysfunction.
However, clinical trials of Xanax have found that a small percentage of users experience some degree of sexual dysfunction as a side effect of Xanax.
For example, in a placebo-controlled trial of Xanax as a treatment for panic disorder, 7.4 percent of patients given Xanax reported experiencing sexual dysfunction, versus 3.7 percent of patients given a non-therapeutic placebo.
Sexual dysfunction is a broad term that may refer to a diverse range of issues related to sexual performance, including a lack of sexual desire, lack of sexual arousal, orgasm disorders or pain during sexual intercourse.
A common sex-related side effect of Xanax is a reduced sex drive -- an issue that may make it more difficult to get and maintain an erection.
Research also shows that benzodiazepines, the class of medications to which Xanax belongs, are often associated with erectile dysfunction.
For example, results from the Boston Area Community Health (BACH) Survey -- a large survey of men aged between 30 and 79 -- found that men who regularly use benzodiazepines are at a higher risk of ED than their peers.
Put simply, while there isn’t any research into whether or not Xanax causes erectile dysfunction specifically, sexual performance issues aren’t unheard of while using Xanax.
Anxiety and Erectile Dysfunction
Anxiety disorders are the most common form of mental illness in the United States. In fact, data suggests that an estimated more than 31 percent of all US adults are affected by an anxiety disorder at some point in life.
Although we often think of anxiety as a purely psychological issue, the reality is that anxiety can often produce physical symptoms, one of which may be ED.
Anxiety, which Xanax is often prescribed to treat, is one of several psychological factors that can play a role in the development of erectile dysfunction.
ED and anxiety can often develop into a vicious cycle, with occasional erection issues leading to anxiety about sexual performance, which leads to further ED. We’ve talked about this in greater detail in our guide to sexual performance anxiety and erectile dysfunction.
If you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and use Xanax, it’s possible that your erectile dysfunction symptoms could be caused by your anxiety disorder rather than your medication.
It’s also possible that an underlying health issue may contribute to your ED. You can learn more about the physical and psychological factors that can affect your erectile health in our complete guide to the causes of ED.
Other Causes of Erectile Dysfunction
In addition to medication and anxiety, a large range of health issues can either cause or play a part in erectile dysfunction.
ED is often caused by physical health issues, such as diseases and conditions. You may have an elevated risk of experiencing ED if you have any of the following health issues:
Atherosclerosis (clogged arteries)
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Type 2 diabetes
Cardiovascular disease (CVD)
Chronic kidney disease
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Injuries that affect your pelvis, penis, prostate, bladder or surrounding tissue
Complications from prostate surgery or radiation therapy
Physical health issues can contribute to ED in several ways. Some, such as heart disease, can reduce blood flow to your penis, making it harder for you to get and maintain an erection when you feel aroused.
Others, such as diabetes or injuries, can damage the nerves in your penis and affect your level of sensation and sexual function.
Sometimes, ED is caused by psychological issues rather than physical ones. The way you feel and think can have a huge impact on your sexual performance, potentially making it harder for you to maintain a firm erection during sex.
You may experience ED if you have any of the following psychological issues:
Worries about performing sexually
Guilt about having sex or certain sexual behavior
Stress, whether it’s related to sex, work, relationships or other factors
Our free mental health resources provide actionable information that you can use to deal with many of the psychological issues that can contribute to ED.
In many cases, ED is related to an aspect of your lifestyle and behavior. Certain habits, such as smoking or drinking alcohol excessively, may affect your physical and mental wellbeing and give you an increased risk of experiencing ED.
The following habits and behaviors may cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction:
Being overweight or obese
Using illicit substances
Drinking alcohol frequently or excessively
Maintaining a physically inactive lifestyle
ED treatments, delivered
No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere.
How to Treat Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction can be frustrating, especially when it prevents you from enjoying a fulfilling, satisfying sex life.
Luckily, ED is almost always treatable through the use of medication, psychotherapy, changes to your habits and lifestyle or a combination of these things.
We’ve provided more information about the options that you can use to treat erectile dysfunction below.
Erectile dysfunction is often treated using medications, referred to as PDE5 inhibitors. Most ED medications come in tablet form, making them easy to use before sex.
Several medications are available to treat erectile dysfunction. These work by improving blood flow to the erectile tissue of your penis, allowing more blood to flow in and making it easier for you to get and maintain an erection when you’re sexually aroused.
Currently, the following medications are approved by the FDA to treat erectile dysfunction:
Vardenafil. The active ingredient in Levitra®, vardenafil provides relief from ED for four to five hours per dose.
Avanail. Available as Stendra®, avanafil is a newer ED medication that starts working in as little as 15 minutes and is less likely to cause side effects than older ED medications.
We offer several popular ED medications online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
Changing Your Anxiety Medication or Dosage
If your erectile dysfunction started after you began using Xanax, your healthcare provider may recommend making certain changes to the way you use your medication.
This may include changing your dosage of Xanax, switching to a different type of medication to treat your anxiety or panic disorder, or watching and waiting for several weeks or months to see if your symptoms improve over time.
Make sure to closely follow your healthcare provider’s instructions when using medication such as Xanax. It’s important not to adjust your dosage or stop using your medication without talking to your healthcare provider.
If your ED is caused by a psychological factor such as anxiety, options like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be helpful. We’ve talked more about treating this form of ED in our guide to the psychological causes of erectile dysfunction.
Habits and Lifestyle Changes
Both anxiety and erectile dysfunction often improve with a healthy lifestyle. Making changes to your habits and lifestyle may have a positive impact on your sexual performance, including the quality and consistency of your erections. Try to:
Exercise frequently. Regular exercise can improve your heart health and enhance the flow of blood around your body, including to your penis. Try to get at least 15 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise per day.
Maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight or obese not only negatively affects your erectile health -- it also increases your risk of developing diabetes, which is one of the most significant physical causes of erectile dysfunction.
Quit smoking. Smoking can damage your cardiovascular system and reduce the flow of oxygen-rich blood around your body. If you’re a smoker, try to quit.
Avoid watching porn excessively. Although masturbation typically doesn’t cause ED, some research has found that there might be a link between excessive porn usage and sexual dysfunction.
Focus on relaxation and mindfulness. When you’re anxious, it can be difficult to relax and enjoy the moment, including when you’re in bed with your partner. Try using anxiety relief techniques to promote calmness and relaxation.
Our guide to naturally protecting your erection goes into more detail about natural methods that you can use to improve your erectile health and sexual performance.
Final Thoughts on Xanax and ED
Although research on the relationship between Xanax and erectile dysfunction is limited, several studies suggest that benzodiazepines -- the class of medications to which Xanax belongs -- can have sexual side effects.
It’s also common for anxiety to affect your sexual performance, especially if it prevents you from relaxing and feeling comfortable when you’re with your partner.
If you’re prescribed Xanax and find it more difficult to get or maintain an erection, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider. They may suggest adjusting your dosage or making some changes to your habits to improve your sexual health and function.
Worried about your erectile health? Our guide to erectile dysfunction goes into more detail about how and why ED occurs, as well as the large range of treatments that can improve your erectile function and sexual performance.