Take a Pill to Boost Your Sex Drive?

Illustration: Itzy Ramirez

If you’ve struggled with your sex drive, you’re definitely not alone. A that about 10 percent of women struggle with hypoactive sexual desire disorder, or HSDD. (And according to another survey, a whopping 32 percent of women had lacked sexual interest for months-long stretches in the previous year.)

For decades, men have turned to Viagra. But what about drugs designed to help women’s sex lives?

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration the first-ever drug designed to boost women’s libido. Flibanserin, nicknamed the “little pink pill,” will be available from Sprout Pharmaceuticals starting October 17 under the brand name Addyi.

On its surface, this looks like a huge victory for women. Sexual liberation, baby! (Technically, in fact, this is the ever approved to boost libido for either sex, as Viagra treats erectile dysfunction.) But before we all dive into the flibanserin pool, let’s take stock: What is this new drug all about? Is it really The Pill’s second coming?

To begin with, whether and how Addyi—a daily pill—works is up for debate. The drug changes the levels of three neurotransmitters—norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine—but whether this truly enhances libido remains unclear. One found that women who took Addyi had, on average, 4.4 satisfying sexual experiences per month, while women who had a placebo had 3.7 (both groups had 2.7 prior to the study). But even those results are suspect: The increase in satisfaction compared with the placebo showed up on a monthly questionnaire, but not a daily diary.

Addyi also carries a risk of various side effects, including low blood pressure, nausea, dizziness, fainting, and sleepiness. In severe cases, the drug can drastically decrease blood pressure or cause patients to lose consciousness. Alcohol and certain medications can exacerbate these risks, so women are advised not to drink while they’re taking the drug. Not just for the hour when you take the pill, but for the entire period of time. It’s also only available to premenopausal women, and not advised for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. And the long-term effects of altering brain chemistry in this particular way are unknown.

The good news is that doctors and pharmacists will be required to watch an online tutorial before prescribing the drug, which comes with a warning on the label. So it would be pretty difficult to take this drug casually, or to do so without an open conversation with your doctor about your sexuality. So, worst comes to worst, if you’re considering Addyi, you’ll have an impetus and a reason to have a frank discussion, and get another ally in your corner.

Low libido is very real, but there’s a question of how abnormal it really is. Plus, the mind and body are incredibly linked. If your libido is suffering, it’s whether there might be underlying relationship or psychological issues to address before you turn to medication. In that event, your flagging sex drive might actually be a welcome impetus to take a deep long look at your life and psychology, rather than a problem to be quickly solved.

READ MORE: Sneaky Health Issues that Mess with Your Sex Life