Real People: Uppers and downers

Viagra as a recreational drug? Some clubbers will try just about anything, discovers Tobias Jones

Dean Sithwentis is, but for one tiny detail, the archetypal drug- dealer: he's got the mobile phone, has been hauled into court a couple of times, and has about 80 regular customers. Since he started dealing six months ago he reckons he has provided for the needs of about 1,000 people, and he now brings in more than a grand a week. "I knock out about 120 pills a week, and have four people working for me around nightclubs in the West Midlands," he says. The difference is that Dean deals in the drug Viagra and promotes his services from a hard core porn site on the Internet.

The recreational use of the anti-impotence drug is now so widespread that next week's Student British Medical Journal publishes a lengthy investigation into Viagra's effects when used as part of a drugs cocktail. Meanwhile Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company which produces the drug, has had to reiterate this week that it won't tolerate the rogue dealers making money out of their product. "We have two court cases up and running," says a spokesman, "because we have to protect our own intellectual property." Next week's launch of Viagrene, a derivative herbal drink aimed at lovers, has already been blocked by Pfizer in the High Court.

Strangely, a drug developed for the most unfashionable medical complaint has found a niche market on the club scene. Like Prozac before it, Viagra has become a lifestyle drug, ingested by those who need it, and by those who don't. Ciaran O'Hagan of the drugs charity Release says: "Viagra is an extension of what's been happening for years: the menu of what's available has been extended, and there is a generation of people around now who are confident with poly-usage."

Drug users are mixing and matching their drugs to dovetail with their moods, using different substances to come up, to chill out and, now, to cop off. "It's a question of self-medication," says O'Hagan, "and Viagra is the ultimate night-cap for any clubber suffering from `speed willy' or `brewers' droop'."

Fast becoming the drug of choice on the gay and fetish scenes, Viagra is now also being taken by large numbers of women. Dean Sithwentis says that at least 20 per cent of his customers are female. "What I hear back from them is that, with the blood rush and all, climaxing is simplicity itself." Pfizer has just started conducting pilot trials on the drug's effects on "female sexual dysfunction", and the results will be known later this year.

Drug dealers also find Viagra useful. Simon, a London dealer, says: "It's a decent, semi-legal front. No one pretends it's a great club drug, or that huge numbers are using it, but it's certainly on the scene." Simon sells 15mg for pounds 15, and 100mg for pounds 20. (On prescription, after a pounds 120 medical, Viagra costs about pounds 5 for 50mg.)

Matt Biswell is another Viagra user. He first took the drug whilst on holiday in Thailand. "I literally had an erection all night. It was still there in the morning. Taking it on your own would be the most frustrating experience of your life, but I think it's got a huge future as a recreational drug between couples: you do feel very loved-up."

Critically for those who mix drugs, Viagra can have a lethal effect if mixed with amyl nitrite "poppers".The combination of the two drugs results in the body producing too much nitric oxide which means that blood pressure levels can plummet dangerously.

Pfizer is quick to insist that the drug's sole purpose is hydraulic, and that it has no effects on the central nervous system, libido or desire. Meanwhile doctors have spent the week outlining the possible dangers involved.

Viagra, they say, carries risks of facial flushing, headaches, blood pressure and priapism (a persistent, painful erection). John Ramsey, a toxicologist at St George's Hospital in London, says: "We don't want to deny young people pleasure, but drugs are horrendously complicated. There are well-known drug interactions, and the more drugs you take, the more danger you have of stumbling on one of those interactions."

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are working with this Co-educatio...

    Tradewind Recruitment: Textiles

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We require a teacher of Textiles for this c...

    Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

    Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: We require a teacher of English for this co...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales and Service General Administrator

    £16000 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea