Medications That Can Affect Sexual Desire and Pleasure

By OBOS Sexuality & Relationships Contributors | October 15, 2011
Last Revised on Jul 8, 2014

What does a common drug like Benadryl have to do with enjoying sex?

If you are taking an over-the-counter or prescription drug or herbal supplement and notice changes in your sexual desire or your body during sex, there may be a connection. Certain medications can interfere with sexual desire, the ability to experience orgasm, and the intensity of orgasms.

For example, you may not think that antihistamines such as Benadryl, which are often taken for allergies or colds, could have an effect. But in addition to drying out secretions in the nose, antihistamines can also cause vaginal dryness.

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Medications for long-term chronic illnesses and disabilities can also alter sexual functioning. Some SSRI antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can reduce sexual desire and interfere with the ability to orgasm. Examples include Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), and Zoloft (sertraline).

Similar side effects can also occur with SNRI antidepressants (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) such as Effexor (venlafaxine) and Cymbalta (duloxetine).

Other antidepressants, such as Wellbutrin (bupropion), have been shown to cause less sexual dysfunction than SSRIs or SNRIs — some women even report an increase in sexual desire.

Other medications known to affect sexual desire include anti-anxiety drugs such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium); antifungals such as ketoconazole (Nizoral); blood pressure drugs such as atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Lopressor), clonidine (Catapres), methyldopa (Aldomet) and diuretics; and heartburn drugs such as famotidine (Pepcid) and ranitidine (Zantac).

If you think drugs or supplements could be causing sexual side effects, keep a record of what you’re taking and note what how you’re feeling each day. Some package inserts may identify known sexual side effects, but your own data may be the best source of information.

And talk with your health care provider about your experience. Adjustments in drug dosage may lessen the side effects.