Nothing can put a damper on an amorous mood faster than a case of alcohol-related erectile dysfunction (ED), also known in more vulgar terms as “whiskey dick.” While you and your partner may be excited to parlay your margarita buzz into an evening of sex, there could be times when your penis won’t rise to the occasion.
Alcohol and sex have a complicated relationship. According to a recent study on behavior-related erectile dysfunction in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, when alcohol is consumed in moderation (1 to 2 drinks a day), it is shown to increase desire and reduce anxiety about sexual performance, both of which are beneficial to ED. However, when it is consumed in excess, alcohol can have quite the opposite effect. The following is a closer look at the association between alcohol and erectile dysfunction.
What is it?
Alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction is a temporary condition due to overindulging in alcohol. This could refer to the inability to achieve an erection at all or a situation in which a person gets an erection that is weaker or shorter-lasting than desired.
Why does it occur?
Because erectile dysfunction is usually the result of multiple factors, it can be difficult to isolate one variable from the rest to study it. However, researchers generally agree that excessive alcohol consumption affects male sexual function in the following ways:
- As a depressant, alcohol has a slowing effect on the activity of the Central Nervous System (CNS). The CNS is made up of the brain and spinal cord, and it is responsible for bringing in information from the senses and relaying information to the rest of the body. When the CNS is depressed by alcohol, thinking and reasoning are impaired, reaction times slow, and motor skills and coordination suffer. Unfortunately, the signals between the brain and penis are not immune to the slowing effect of alcohol, sometimes resulting in ED when a man drinks too much.
- Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning that it causes a person to urinate more frequently than usual and can result in dehydration. Dehydration decreases the volume of blood in the body, also decreasing blood flow to the penis and making it more difficult to get an erection.
- Lastly, dehydration increases the body’s level of angiotensin, which is a hormone associated with erectile dysfunction.
Are certain types of alcohol more likely to cause it?
As far as we know, no. Any type of alcohol can cause the symptoms, and it is more likely related to the actual amount of alcohol present rather than the alcohol itself.
What should I do if it happens to me?
First of all, relax and know that it could happen to anyone who indulges in alcohol from time to time. Open, honest communication with your partner is the best policy (as in most situations related to sexual dysfunction), but if you prefer not to have this conversation, you can always partake in other sexual/sensual activities that do not require an erection, like oral sex, petting, or massages.
If it happens to your partner, the advice is similar. Recognize that alcohol-related ED is common, and it is not a reflection of your partner’s feelings for or attraction to you. Try not to make a big deal out of it and enjoy other activities with your partner if you are both so inclined.
When does it become more serious?
An occasional case of alcohol-induced ED is nothing to fret about, but if you repeatedly find yourself unable to achieve an erection, even while sober or after drinking a small amount of alcohol, you could benefit from speaking with your doctor about your situation. Additionally, if you worry that your alcohol consumption may be excessive or out of your control, seek counselling from a medical professional.
American Addiction Centers Editorial Staff. (2020, November 3). Is Alcohol Wreaking Havoc on Your Sexual Performance? DrugAbuse.com. https://drugabuse.com/blog/is-alcohol-wreaking-havoc-on-your-sexual-performance/
Jewell, T. Medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon, Ph.D., R.N., CRNA. (2019, May 23). Does Alcohol Dehydrate You? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/does-alcohol-dehydrate-you/
Martin, M. Medically reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH. (2020, May 15). “Whiskey Dick” or alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction. Roman. https://www.getroman.com/health-guide/whiskey-dick-erectile-dysfunction/
Santos-Longhurst, A. Medically reviewed by Janet Brito, Ph.D., LCSW, CST. (2019, October 29). 14 FAQs About “Whiskey Dick.” Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sex/whiskey-dick
Sivaratnam, L., Selimin, D.S., Abd Ghani, S.R., Nawi, H.M., Nawi, A.M. (2021). Behavior-Related Erectile Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 18(1), 121-143. https://www.jsm.jsexmed.org/article/S1743-6095(20)30930-9/fulltext