Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is not always an effective aphrodisiac. While one glass may help you relax in the bedroom, too many can actually hamper your sexual performance.
Ever come home from a night out and find yourself unable to perform in the bedroom? If you’re one of the millions of men who have experienced difficulty getting or maintaining an erection after drinking, you likely understand the frustrations of the issue. Jokingly referred to as “whiskey dick”, the condition is much more prevalent than it seems. While estimates vary, researchers believe that most men will suffer from alcohol-induced impotence, whether that be for the long-term or just for the night.
What is erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction is an ongoing condition in which men have difficulty getting and keeping their erections. While it’s normal for most men to experience the occasional erectile difficulty, (especially after a particularly long night of drinking), if it begins to happen in more than 25% of all sexual encounters, it may be ED.
Erectile dysfunction can be caused by several physical and psychological issues, as well as lifestyle choices, including:
- Heart disease
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- High weight
- Certain medications
If you have questions or concerns, you should bring them to your doctor who can offer advice or diagnosis.
How does alcohol affect sexual performance?
Ever notice how drunk people walk a little funny and slur their words? Alcohol is a natural depressant, meaning it inhibits the nervous system, blocking nerve impulses and messages from the brain to the body. This is what makes it difficult for people to act as they normally would.
With regard to sex, however, alcohol’s effect on the body has an interesting role, with both the nervous system and hormone levels.
In the short-term, an inhibited nervous system causes the blood vessels (that normally fill the penis with blood and then close to maintain an erection), to relax and allow backflow out of the groin. It typically allows men to get an erection, but not keep it for a prolonged time period, affecting their ability to have penetrative sex.
Similarly, a 2015 study found that five or more drinks begin to affect natural hormone levels, suppressing testosterone production and ultimately lowering a man’s ability to get hard at all.
Drinking occasionally will cause these types of erectile difficulties within a few hours but doesn’t necessarily mean that you have ED. Over the long-term, however, alcohol abuse can damage blood vessels and cause several health issues that often lead to erectile dysfunction, such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Treating ED after alcohol use
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that can be done for alcohol-induced erectile difficulties other than sobering up.
While oral treatments like sildenafil citrate (Viagra) can help combat symptoms of ED by improving blood flow to the penis, mixing prescription medications with large amounts of alcohol can cause dizziness and headaches. You should only use a medication if you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction while sober.
While you are waiting to sober up, there are always other, non-penetrative options that you and your partner might enjoy.
If chronic alcohol abuse has led to other health problems that caused ED, consult with a doctor about how to best move forward. There are several treatment options as well as lifestyle changes, like weight loss, exercise, and stopping drinking, that can improve erectile function.
Erectile Dysfunction (2018, March 9). In Mayo Clinic.
Bergin, R., & Benjamin, C. (2015, November). The Effects of Alcohol on Athletic Performance. National Strength and Conditioning Association, 3(4).
Michelle, J. (n.d.). “Can Alcohol Cause Erectile Dysfunction?”. In Livestrong.
Arackal, B. S., & Benegal, V. (2007). Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in male subjects with alcohol dependence. Indian journal of psychiatry, 49(2), 109–112. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.33257