Erectile dysfunction (ED) is an inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual activity.
The process of getting an erection is complex and involves your:
- blood vessels
Drinking alcohol can affect all of these parts of your body and can contribute to the development of erectile dysfunction.
Consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time, such as a single evening, can cause changes that make it harder to get an erection. These changes may occur in your:
- the nervous system
- hormone levels
Chronic (long-term) overconsumption of alcohol can cause permanent damage to your blood vessels and nerves.
Read on as we take a closer look at how alcohol contributes to erectile dysfunction.
Getting an erection is a complex process, and erectile dysfunction can occur if there is a problem at any stage.
Thoughts of sex or stimulation of the penis activates the parasympathetic nervous system and the release of neurotransmitters from the nerves in the penis. These neurotransmitters relax the muscles of the arteries in the penis, which increases blood flow by
Short-term causes of erectile dysfunction
A temporary inability to have an erection can occur after consuming any type of alcohol.
According to a 2018 study, short-term alcohol consumption depresses your central nervous system and slows the transmission of information between your brain and your penis. This can lead to decreased penile sensitivity.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it dehydrates and increases urination. Dehydration can lead to increased levels of the hormone angiotensin, which narrows blood vessels. Angiotensin can restrict blood flow to the penis.
According to the oldest
Chronic effects of alcohol
Chronic consumption of large amounts of alcohol can damage your nerves, increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, and damage blood vessels, which can impact your ability to get an erection.
Nervous system dysfunction
According to a 2020 review, anywhere from
Cardiovascular disease and damage to blood vessels
It is well established that ED is closely linked to cardiovascular disease.
According to a
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome develops when a person who drinks heavily suddenly stops drinking. It has been linked to cardiovascular symptoms such as high blood pressure which could potentially interfere with the ability to get an erection.
Other common withdrawal symptoms include:
Symptoms usually start 6-12 hours after your last drink and are usually more severe after 48-72 hours.
Although reducing your alcohol intake may cause short-term symptoms that contribute to erectile dysfunction, it will likely improve your sexual health in the long term.
Alcohol can affect sexual function in people of all genders in various ways.
- 87.5% said they had less libido
- 79.1% had sexual arousal dysfunction
- 58% had erectile dysfunction
- 54% said they had difficulty reaching orgasm
Alcohol consumption can also:
- delay ejaculation
- increase libido with moderate amounts of alcohol, but decrease libido with large amounts of alcohol
In people designated female at birth, alcohol can:
Occasionally experiencing erectile dysfunction is normal and nothing to worry about. This can happen if you have been drinking or feeling stressed or anxious.
However, it’s a good idea to see a doctor if this becomes a regular problem. Sometimes erectile dysfunction can be a sign of an underlying health condition like high blood pressure.
It’s also a good idea to see a doctor if you think you have a problem with alcohol. Signs of alcohol use disorder include:
- drink alone and in secret
- loss of interest in activities other than alcohol
- craving for alcohol
- experience withdrawal symptoms
- make alcohol use a priority over other responsibilities
- drink in the morning
- inability to control the amount of alcohol you drink
- alcohol contributing to financial or family problems
Alcohol consumption can contribute to the development of erectile dysfunction by:
- slow down your central nervous system
- causing dehydration
- lower your testosterone levels
Long-term alcohol consumption can damage your blood vessels and nerves.
It’s normal to have erectile dysfunction from time to time, especially when drinking.
If you regularly have trouble maintaining an erection when sober or after only drinking small amounts of alcohol, it’s a good idea to see a doctor to rule out an underlying health condition.