Beyond Tumescence: Four Other Uses For Erectile Dysfunction Drugs

It's been a marquee week for boner pills.

First, a University of Florida professor and colleagues published a study showing that Cialis, the blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug, can help treat Becker muscular dystrophy, a rare and debilitating disease that often cripples people by age 30 and for which there's no known cure. Then Brandon Marshall, former Miami Dolphins receiver and all-around maniac, blurts out that some NFL players pop Viagra to gain a competitive edge.

That got us wondering: What else can these little lascivious pills do? It turns out a whole lot.

King of the Mountain: A 2008 study of men scaling Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, showed that tadalafil, which is sold as Cialis, helped climbers stave off dizziness, fatigue, and other symptoms of altitude sickness. The study was run by a retired Israeli general, who posited that fighter pilots might be able handle the stress of flying around low-oxygen environments for extended periods of time if they pop a pill before takeoff. The meaning of cockpit has never been the same.

Jet Lagged Hamsters: In 2007, Argentine scientists gave Viagra to hamsters and then altered their exposure to light patterns as a way of artificially inducing jet lag. The rodents on the little blue pill adjusted to the change four days faster compared with their counterparts that received a saline solution. While the study hasn't been carried over to human subjects yet, a little bit of jet lag seems better than a plane-full of passengers pitching trouser tents for the entire flight.

Touchdown: It turns out Brandon Marhsall wasn't shooting off at the mouth. From Roger Clemens to spandex-wearing cyclists, Viagra is a well-known and little-regulated performance-enhancing drug. Pro cyclist Andrea Molett was busted with 82 pills and a syringe during the 2008 Giro d'Italia. The NY Daily News reported that when Heath Benedict--an offensive tackle and top prospect in the 2008 NFL draft--was found dead, the medical examiner found a needle, a bottle of anabolic steroids, and a bottle of liquid Viagra. The two are often taken in combination before a workout under the assumption that the dilation of blood vessels caused by Viagra increases the delivery of steroids to particular muscle groups.

Heal the Sick: This weeks' study showing that tadalafil can help treat Becker muscular dystrophy isn't the first published paper extolling the therapeutic benefits of the drug for an ailment other than perpetual limpness. In fact, the FDA approved tadalafil in 2009 for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension, a disease that causes blood pressure in the right lung to surge and contributes to heart failure. Researchers have also looked into whether ED drugs might help Raynaud's phenomenon, that annoying ailment all chicks seem to have that causes them to have freezing hands and feet.

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Chris Sweeney