April is also Alcohol Awareness Month, which makes it the perfect time to explore the link between alcohol consumption and erectile dysfunction (ED). Alcohol Awareness Month began as a way to increase outreach and education surrounding issues that stem from alcoholism and excessive drinking. Men with alcohol dependence are 60 to 70 percent more likely to experience sexual dysfunction, such as ED, than men without dependence.
Alcohol & Sexual Health
Yes, having a drink may make some people feel more relaxed around a sexual partner, but drinking can make sexual performance more challenging. Anyone planning to mix alcohol and sex should consider the following:
- Consent to sexual acts is essential, even when drinking. Consent can only take place when someone is able to make informed decisions. If someone is drinking to the point of incapacitation, they cannot provide consent.
- Alcohol can prevent or delay orgasm or ejaculation. Drinking excessively has been linked to delayed ejaculation in males. It has also been shown to prevent and significantly delay orgasms in females.
- Drinking can lead to taking greater sexual health risks. Alcohol consumption has been linked to taking sexual risks in both males and females.
Alcohol & ED
Research demonstrates that heavy drinking is associated with erectile dysfunction symptoms. Specifically, heavy drinking is associated with both temporary and long-term ED. Alcohol consumption reduces blood flow to both the brain and the penis, making it more difficult to achieve and maintain an erection.
Men with alcohol dependence syndrome are more likely to experience premature ejaculation, persistent ED, and low sexual desire than men without alcohol dependence syndrome. Sexual dysfunction is associated with experiencing interpersonal problems and increased personal distress. Men experiencing frequent ED symptoms, a lack of sexual desire, or premature ejaculation in conjunction with alcohol consumption may benefit from reducing or ceasing alcohol use.
Tips to Prevent Alcohol-Related ED
Most people do not need to give up alcohol entirely in order to prevent ED. Moderate drinking should not contribute significantly to ED symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines moderate drinking as having up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.
Follow the tips below to prevent alcohol-related ED.
- Set a limit when drinking. Knowing your limit and sticking to it is important for preventing ED symptoms related to alcohol consumption.
- Drink less when you are expecting to engage in any sexual activity. Reducing alcohol intake prior to sexual activity is recommended to prevent ED.
- Take care of your physical fitness. Maintaining cardiovascular fitness is not only good for the heart, but also improves erectile health. Regular exercise can help to buffer the impact of alcohol on sexual performance.
- Speak with your medical provider and review your options for medication. Some medications can contribute to ED symptoms. Properly managing medications can help to reduce your risk of experiencing ED symptoms. Popular ED medications, such as Viagra, are effective at preventing ED symptoms.
- Communicate openly with your partner. It is important for sexual partners to communicate about ED symptoms. Approaching ED as a team can help reduce anxiety surrounding any symptoms.
Shelby is a public health professional with research and field experience in sexual and reproductive health. She holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).