Taking Viagra for the First Time: What to Expect

Written by
The Manual Team
Medically approved by
Dr Earim Chaudry
Last updated
22nd November 2021

In 30 seconds…

When taking Viagra for erectile dysfunction, take one 50mg tablet about 1 hour before sex. The effects usually last for around 4 hours, and will only start to work once you’re sexually aroused, so you should take time to relax and be intimate with your partner.

If you’ve never taken Viagra as a treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) before, it’s natural that you’ll have a few questions about what to expect the first time you pop that pill.

Viagra contains the active ingredient Sildenafil, which is also available in an unbranded generic form. It works by promoting muscle relaxation and vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels), allowing greater blood flow to the penis. This helps you achieve a firmer and longer-lasting erection. Result? More satisfying sex for you and your partner.

In this post, we’ll aim to answer your most pressing questions about taking Viagra for the first time.

How Much Viagra Should I Take the First Time?

The usual first-time dose of Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, is one 50mg tablet, which is taken with a glass of water an hour before the time you’re planning to have sex. Viagra is also available in doses of 25mg and 100mg, so your prescriber will be able to advise whether a lower or higher dose might suit you better.

Important note: You should never take more than one tablet per day – or take more than the maximum prescribed dose of 100mg. Indeed, doses over 100mg have shown no increased advantages for treating ED, and they raise the risk of side effects – and this would typically be outside the terms of the product license in any case.

What to Expect When Taking Viagra For the First Time

A common myth surrounding Viagra is that it will make an erection spring up, as if by magic, once you’ve taken it. In fact, you need to be sexually aroused and stimulated for the drug to take effect. It usually takes around 30 minutes of gentle masturbation or engaging in foreplay with your partner before you’ll have an erection firm enough for penetration.

One study found that a firm erection could be achieved with as little as 12 minutes of stimulation, but for some men it can take up to an hour. It’s important to simply relax and enjoy the experience. Stressing about whether or not the drug will work could get in the way of becoming aroused, and this will then impact the drug’s effectiveness.

The effect of the Sildenafil or Viagra you’ve taken will usually be at its peak within 30 minutes to 2 hours after taking the tablet. However, the effects can last for 4 hours and sometimes longer, so you may find you can achieve multiple erections in that time!

If you’re looking for an ED drug that lasts a bit longer so you can have more spontaneous sex, you could always try Tadalafil (Cialis). This is known as the “weekend pill” as its effects last 24–36 hours.

What Can I Do to Maximise My Chance of Success with Viagra?

Certain lifestyle choices can help or hinder the effectiveness of Viagra. At the time you take the tablet, you can maximise your potential for a good first experience by:

  • Only eating a light meal: A heavy meal with lots of fatty food will delay the effect of Viagra because your stomach has to digest the food before it can get around to absorbing the drug.
  • Avoiding antacids: Eating a light meal will help out with this one! Taking antacids as an indigestion remedy can impact the absorption of Viagra.
  • Going easy on the alcohol: A lot of alcohol mixed with Viagra can lead to a dangerous drop in blood pressure and other side effects. Plus, alcohol impacts your ability to get an erection, so it’ll make Viagra less effective.
  • Avoiding grapefruit: Grapefruit and grapefruit juice can increase the side effects of Viagra so it’s best to steer clear of them. 

If Viagra doesn’t work for you the first time, you don’t have to give up straight away. It’s worth bearing in mind that it can actually take up to 8 times of using it before it starts to have an effect, so  try on a few more occasions before seeking an alternative.

You could always get creative and try different settings and times for sex, to see what helps you become aroused.

Does Viagra Have Any Side Effects?

Numerous clinical trials have demonstrated that Viagra is a very safe drug, and most men have a positive experience of the treatment. Important note: You must be a man over the age of 18 to take Viagra

When side effects do occur, these are generally mild and short-lived. Most commonly you might experience some flushing, stomach ache or indigestion, or a headache. If you do have any mild side-effect reaction to Viagra, you can also consult your prescriber to see if a lower dose might work better for you. If you have a more serious reaction to Viagra, such as a painful erection lasting more than 4-6 hours or a pain in your chest, seek urgent medical assistance.

When you’re prescribed Viagra online through a licensed and approved provider (like Manual), you’ll be asked for details of any other medications you’re taking. It’s important to provide full information about these, as some drugs can interact with Viagra and increase the risk of side effects. 

Remember: if the 50mg strength has not provided the desired outcome, after at least 8 separate attempts you can move up to 100mg. However, you should only do this if you haven’t experienced side effects from 50mg – or there has been no noticeable improvement in achieving an erection.

Key Takeaways…

When you take Viagra or Sildenafil for the first time, the most important thing is to relax and enjoy some sexual stimulation (whether that’s masturbating or with a partner). This will give the drug the best chance to kick in and help you get the firm erection you’re looking for.

If you find that the typical 50mg dose isn’t right for you, you can talk to your prescriber about changing dose or trying an alternative ED treatment.

And remember that if Viagra doesn’t work for you the first time you can always try again another day. A few more candles, a little less champagne – and who knows what could happen…


Is it safe to take Viagra?

It is completely safe to take Viagra or Sildenafil provided you are male and over-18, and have been prescribed it for erectile dysfunction. You should not use erectile dysfunction medicate recreationally, or if you have not been diagnosed with erectile dysfunction. Side effects are uncommon and generally mild, if you experience any serious pain or side effects which last longer than 4-6 hours, seek medical attention immediately.

What does Viagra do?

Viagra works by inhibiting the PDE5 enzyme, which controls muscle contraction in the penis. Viagra allows the blood vessels in the penis to relax and expand, boosting the blood flow to the area and making it easier to maintain a lasting erection.

Will Viagra make me instantly erect?

There is a myth that taking Viagra (or any other ED medication) will give you an instant erection, but the truth is far from it. In fact, Viagra only works to give you an erection when you are both aroused and stimulated, and even then it may take up to an hour of stimulation with Viagra to achieve an erection strong enough for penetration.

How can I maximise the effects of Viagra?

You can help to ensure the success of Viagra by only eating a light meal beforehand (a heavy, fatty meal will slow down your body’s absorption of the drug), avoiding alcohol (or at least limiting your alcohol consumption), and avoiding grapefruit or grapefruit juice (grapefruit can worsen the side effects of Viagra).

While we've ensured that everything you read on the Health Centre is medically reviewed and approved, information presented here is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Further reading

From our health centre. Experts, information and hot topics. See all Erectile Dysfunction articles

Ed by Manual

Erectile dysfunction treatments

Erections aren’t always easy for millions of men in the UK. It’s no big deal. Choose from highly effective, clinically proven solutions.