For both men and women, it's a fact of nature that our hormone levels fluctuate and drop as we age. These fluctuations can have plenty of deleterious side effects, including loss of bone density, mood swings, and low libido. In ladies, this transition is called menopause, and we quietly medicate it with hormone treatments. In men, this is called OH MY GOD WHERE IS MY BONER???, and we medicate it by freaking the fuck out.
Now, that's not to say that a loss of libido in men is something to be taken lightly—in my personal life, I am a vocal fan of the male libido (under appropriate circumstances, of course—such as bed, rather than my pelvic exam). Testosterone is a fascinating, tricky, and vitally important chemical for both men and women (if you've never heard this knotty and often upsetting This American Life episode, you're welcome). But testosterone therapy, a fairly new pharmaceutical phenomenon being touted as a "fountain of youth" and the successor to Viagra, is worth pausing over:
Like the millions of women who have opted for hormone replacement therapy, men are choosing to get their hormone levels in line. As many as 13.8 million men older than 45 in the U.S. have low levels of testosterone, according to a 2006 study in the International Journal of Clinical Practice. The male sex hormone begins to decline after age 30, and tends to drop about 1 percent each year, though the level of decline varies. Lower-than-normal levels can lead to a loss of libido, a decrease in bone and muscle mass, and depression, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
But it's not exactly "like the millions of women who have opted for hormone replacement therapy." Obviously women seek hormone replacement too, but as far as I know (although the kids are nuts these days), pre-menopausal women don't seek hormone replacement for fun in the way that some men are doing with testosterone. See, it's not just men with low testosterone levels who are seeking testosterone treatment—it's also young men who just want a little extra zing in their boners. It's recreational:
"Am I making a deal with the devil? A little bit, but I have to think about my quality of life," Murray said. "It is like I'm in my 20s again."
Murray said he doesn't have any obvious symptoms of low testosterone levels. He simply wants to raise his energy level and give his bodybuilding regime a boost. That sort of endorsement may offer promise to the pharmaceutical industry.
Other experts worry that some doctors are misprescribing testosterone as a cure-all for a variety of problems. The Cleveland Clinic's Sabanegh said he sees men taking testosterone to help with erectile dysfunction or low libido when they are trying to conceive a child. Yet testosterone treatments can make men infertile, a side effect doctors sometimes fail to consider, he said.
This has doctors worried. There can be dramatic and dangerous side effects for men who seek testosterone treatment when they don't actually need it—including infertility, prostate cancer, blood clots, liver damage, and serious addiction—and yet the quest to market and sell testosterone treatments is still "a race!" It's in "hot demand!" It's changing lives! Side effects? Bah. Full speed ahead! Let's do this! SAVE THE BONERS!!!