What To Do When Viagra Doesn’t Work

Dr. Babak Ashrafi

Medically reviewed by

Dr Babak Ashrafi

Last reviewed: 23 Jun 2022

Viagra is a branded medication containing the active ingredient sildenafil citrate. It can help if you have erectile dysfunction (ED), which means you need help getting or keeping an erection. Viagra does not work for every man, even when taken as directed. You might need a different dose or to change when or how you take it.

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Why Viagra doesn’t always work

When Viagra doesn’t work, it could be because you need a higher dose. Viagra not working could also be a sign of an underlying health condition. Drinking alcohol or taking Viagra on a full stomach may affect how well it works. It may take a few tries for Viagra to work for you. You should speak to your doctor if Viagra is not helping with your ED symptoms.

Dosage is too low

If Viagra is not working for you, it may be because your Viagra dosage is too low. The usual starting dose for Viagra is 50mg, but you may be started on a lower dose of 25mg if you take certain medications.

The maximum dose of Viagra that you can take is 100mg. Your doctor can prescribe a higher dose if it is safe for you. Never take more than you have been prescribed. Taking more than 100mg will not make Viagra work better and could cause serious side effects.

Not taking it correctly

For Viagra to work as it should, you need to be sexually aroused. You should swallow your tablets whole, with a glass of water. You should not take your Viagra with grapefruit juice. The time you take Viagra is also important. It usually takes around 30 to 60 minutes to work, so it is recommended to take your Viagra dose an hour before you plan to have sex.

You can take it up to 4 hours before sex, but the longer you wait, the less likely it is to work. It may take a few tries (up to 8) with Viagra to find when it works best for you.

You have an underlying health condition

If you have an underlying health condition that you do not know about, it may be why Viagra is not working for you. Some health conditions that can cause ED include:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol levels
  • hormone problems, such as low testosterone levels

You should speak to your GP, as they can check for these health issues if your ED symptoms are new and Viagra is not working. If you have an underlying health condition, you can get treatment which could improve your ED and help Viagra to work.

Certain medications have side effects, such as erectile dysfunction. It may be that a medication you take is causing your ED, or making it worse. If you think this is the case, speak to your GP.

Drinking alcohol

Although you can drink alcohol with Viagra, it could affect how well it works. Drinking alcohol can make it harder to get and keep an erection. It can also make Viagra side effects more likely, such as dizziness or headaches.

Eating too much

You can take Viagra with or without food but having a full stomach means that Viagra will take longer to work. In some cases, it could delay Viagra working for up to 2 hours. If you have eaten a large meal before taking Viagra and noticed it doesn’t work, give it more time.

What if Viagra doesn’t work the first time?

Viagra doesn’t always work the first time. As with any new medication, it can take your body some time to get used to it. Your doctor will suggest trying Viagra a few times before ruling out that it doesn’t work. You can also follow the guidance on this page to make sure you take it correctly. Try not to give up taking it too early.

As ED can cause performance anxiety, you may be putting a lot of pressure on yourself the first time you use Viagra. This could make you feel nervous, which can make it harder to get sexually aroused. You should speak to your doctor if you have anxiety around sex or ED.

What to do when Viagra isn’t working

If Viagra is not working for you, it may be because you are not taking it at the right time. You may need to limit your alcohol intake and take Viagra on an empty stomach. If you have tried Viagra several times and it is not working, your doctor may suggest an alternative ED treatment.

Take it at the right time

For Viagra to work, you need to take it at the right time. This is usually an hour before sex, but it can be different for every man. Make sure you do not wait too long after taking it to have sex.

Don’t drink alcohol

To get the best effect from Viagra, it is recommended to keep your alcohol intake to a minimum or avoid it altogether when you want to use Viagra.

Take it on an empty stomach

If Viagra doesn’t work, try taking it on an empty stomach next time. As your stomach is empty, Viagra can work faster.

Try it again

When Viagra doesn’t work for ED, it can feel incredibly frustrating. The best thing to do is try again and stay relaxed whilst taking it. Your doctor may suggest taking Viagra several times (up to 8 times), as it can take a few tries for it to work as it should.

You should not try again the same day, as you cannot take Viagra more than once a day.

Alternative erectile dysfunction treatments

If Viagra doesn’t work or you get Viagra side effects, your doctor may suggest an alternative treatment for ED.

ZAVA Online Doctor can prescribe a range of erectile dysfunction treatments which work similar to Viagra but contain a different active ingredient, such as:

  • tadalafil, which is a generic medication used for ED containing the active ingredient tadalafil, with 10mg being the usual starting dose
  • Cialis, a branded version of tadalafil
  • Spedra, which contains the active ingredient avanafil and comes in 100mg or 200mg doses
  • Levitra, which contains the active ingredient vardenafil and comes in a 10mg or 20mg dose

You can also try an erectile dysfunction trial pack, which contains 3 different ED treatments.

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Medically reviewed by:
Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Expansion

Babak studied medicine at King’s College London and graduated in 2003, having also gained a bachelor’s degree in Physiology during his time there. He completed his general practice (GP) training in East London, where he worked for a number of years as a partner at a large inner-city GP practice. He completed the Royal College of GPs membership exam in 2007.

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Article created: 23 Jun 2022

Last reviewed: 23 Jun 2022


ZAVA offers a convenient and discreet service to help men improve their erectile dysfunction. There are a number of treatments you can consider. Continue to our erectile dysfunction service page to learn about the treatment options available.




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