Erectile dysfunction (ED) is an inability to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual activity.
The process of getting an erection is complex and involves your:
- blood vessels
Consuming alcohol can affect all of these parts of your body and can contribute to the development of ED.
Consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time, such as a single evening, can cause changes that make it more difficult to get an erection. These changes can occur in your:
- 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 deeper look at how alcohol contributes to ED.
Getting an erection is a complex process, and ED can occur if there’s a problem during any step.
Sexual thoughts or stimulation of the penis activate the parasympathetic nervous system and the release of neurotransmitters from nerves in the penis. These neurotransmitters relax the muscles in the arteries of the penis, which increases blood flow by
Short-term causes of ED
A temporary inability to get an erection can happen after consuming any type of alcohol.
According to a 2018 study, short-term consumption of alcohol depresses your central nervous system and slows down the transmission of information between your brain and penis. This can lead to decreased sensitivity of the penis.
Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it’s dehydrating and increases urination. Dehydration can lead to increased levels of the hormone angiotensin, which narrows blood vessels. Angiotensin can limit blood flow to the penis.
According to older
Chronic effects of alcohol
Chronically consuming large amounts of alcohol can damage your nerves, raise your risk of cardiovascular disease, and damage blood vessels, all of which can impact your ability to get an erection.
Nervous system dysfunction
According to a 2020 review, anywhere from
Cardiovascular disease and blood vessel damage
It’s well established that ED is closely related to cardiovascular disease.
According to a
Alcohol withdrawal syndrome develops when a person who drinks heavily suddenly stops drinking. It’s been linked to cardiovascular symptoms such as high blood pressure that could potentially interfere with the ability to get an erection.
Other common withdrawal symptoms include:
Symptoms usually start 6 to 12 hours after your last drink and are usually most severe after 48 to 72 hours.
Although reducing your alcohol intake may cause short-term symptoms that contribute to ED, it will likely improve your sexual health in the long run.
Alcohol can affect sexual function in people of all genders in a variety of ways.
- 87.5 percent reported lower sex drive
- 79.1 percent had dysfunction of sexual arousal
- 58 percent had ED
- 54 percent reported difficulty reaching orgasm
Alcohol consumption may also:
- delay ejaculation
- increase sex drive with moderate amounts of alcohol, but lower sex drive with high amounts of alcohol
In people assigned female at birth, alcohol may:
Experiencing ED occasionally is normal and no reason for concern. It can occur if you’ve been drinking or feeling stressed or anxious.
However, it’s a good idea to see a doctor if it becomes a regular problem. Sometimes ED 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 may have a problem with alcohol. Signs of alcohol use disorder include:
- drinking alone and in secrecy
- losing interest in activities other than drinking
- craving alcohol
- experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- making drinking a priority over other responsibilities
- drinking in the morning
- inability to control the amount of alcohol you consume
- alcohol contributing to financial or family problems
Consuming alcohol can contribute to the development of ED by:
- slowing down your central nervous system
- causing dehydration
- lowering your testosterone levels
Long-term consumption of alcohol can lead to damage to your blood vessels and nerves.
It’s normal to experience ED every now and then, especially when you’re drinking.
If you regularly have trouble maintaining an erection when you’re sober or after only drinking small amounts of alcohol, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor to rule out an underlying health condition.