Video: The Libido Killer

msnbc.com
updated 1/11/2006 5:27:48 PM ET 2006-01-11T22:27:48
TRANSCRIPT

Recent studies suggest there may be some of the major problems with the birth control pill and its effect on womens sex drive.  Dr. Drew Pinsky, the host of “Love Line,” radio show and also “Strictly Sex with Dr. Drew” on the Discovery Health Channel joined Tucker Carlson to discuss the latest findings.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

TUCKER CARLSON, HOST 'THE SITUATION':  This is very, very disturbing, at least from my point of view, that long-term use of the birth control pill can affect a woman‘s sex drive.  Even after she goes off it, though most women cycle on and off the pill, or many do throughout their lifetimes, even when they go off it, they have decreased sex drive.  Do you think this is accurate, these findings?  What do you think of it?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, “LOVE LINE”:    Yes, I absolutely do.  I think we, as physicians, have been somewhat irresponsible in terms of not discussing this in great enough detail with our women—our female patients. 

CARLSON:  Somewhat irresponsible?  This is a big deal. 

PINSKY:  Well, it is a big deal.  And understand that the birth control pill we‘ve always known can affect sex drive and sexual functioning on various levels.  And we sort of, you know, we pay attention to it, but we really don‘t counsel women about this very aggressively. 

And for instance, I deal a lot with young adults and young people and the Depo-Provera shot is something that‘s used very, very frequently.  It‘s a very affective contraceptive, but it almost always affects mood and libido.  And we never really talk about it.

Now here‘s evidence that not only are these people going to have affects while they‘re taking the medicine, but it may go on for months and we really don‘t know how long after. 

Unfortunately, I‘ve seen the same thing with antidepressant medicines, too.  It‘s another thing we commonly prescribe for patients.  And we really don‘t counsel them in great detail, the potential affect on their libido. 

CARLSON:  Well, I think that‘s widely known—at least in my experience, in talking to people.  I think it‘s widely known that if you go on certain antidepressants, it can affect your libido, but I have almost never heard anybody say that the pill, which—I don‘t know.  What is the percentage of American women on the pill, by the way?  Do you know?

PINSKY:  I don‘t know the number off the top of my head.  But I‘ll tell you, there is a lot of interesting anthropology out there about the pill.  There‘s a biological anthropologist named Lionel Tiger who took chimpanzee pods and put the female chimpanzees on the birth control pill and watched how the pod behavior was so profoundly affected. 

And one of the most prominent things he saw is the female chimpanzees were no longer interested in the males.  They were no longer interested in reproducing.  And what it caused was all kinds of aggressive acting out in the male chimpanzees.  So we may be affecting our culture in ways that we haven‘t really come to terms with yet, in ways that we haven‘t seen and really aren‘t blaming on the birth control pill that may have something to do with it. 

CARLSON:  Is—is people who look to evolution to explain human behavior might say the root of this is the females desire sex because they want to get pregnant, which is their evolutionary job, of course.  And once their body knows it can no longer get pregnant, then what‘s the point of having sex?  Do you think that‘s at the root of this?

PINSKY:  Well, of course, the birth control pill basically works by tricking the women‘s body into, let‘s say, believing that it‘s pregnant.  And the fact is some of those biological changes on testosterone, which is the primary hormone of sex drive in both men and women, and something called a sex hormone binding globulin, which is a protein that circulates in the blood and binds testosterone and other sex hormones, that when that protein is changed, it changes the amount of circulating hormone available, and that then affects sex drive and libido.  And that‘s the component that seems to be persisting with time. 

CARLSON:  I guess here‘s what bothers me.  I‘ll say it for the third time, but I think this is a big deal.  So everybody‘s on the pill.  You know, a lot of American women are on the pill.  This is not widely known, at least up until now.  The pill‘s been around for 40 years.  This just seems like a profound dereliction of duty on the part of physicians who prescribe the pill. 

Are there other medications that are being prescribed whose long term affect we don‘t know?  And shouldn‘t we know them?

PINSKY:  Well, listen, every medication, every time you interact with the medical system, you risk harm.  There‘s simply not a medication on earth, whether it‘s aspirin or Tylenol or Sudafed, that cannot harm you.  It just doesn‘t exist.  So the fact is all medicines can be harmful. 

The reality is, though, that the risks of the pill—this is the reality—are far less than the risk of pregnancy.  Pregnancy is a diseased state and can be quite dangerous to women.  In fact, most women throughout human history could expect to die in pregnancy.  So we‘re trying to weigh these various risks.

CARLSON:  But at least you get something in the end.  I mean, nothing results from a low sex drive.  That‘s just depressing. 

PINSKY:  But I totally agree with you that this is a very big issue.  That‘s why I‘m here talking about it tonight.  I mean, we‘ve not emphasized this sufficiently.  And the fact that we‘ve known it‘s happened while people on are on the pill.  We figured, well, we can change the pill, adjust it, figure out what‘s going to give the least amount of side effect.

But now here‘s evidence that it can be persistent, and that‘s the new news.  And that‘s what doctors really have not known until now.

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