Alcohol and Erectile Dysfunction: What's the Link?

Everyone's familiar with the increased confidence that comes with having a few drinks of booze. But how does this translate in the bedroom?

For many men, drinking a lot of alcohol can decrease their sexual desire and make it difficult to achieve or maintain an erection. Here's the lowdown on the relationship between alcohol and erectile dysfunction.

How does alcohol affect the body?

Alcohol is considered a depressant. This means as you consume alcohol, your body processes, like metabolism, slow down. When this occurs, this can inhibit sexual performance. This is what alcohol does to your body when consumed:

  • Depressant on the nervous system. Your circulation and nerve sensitivity are suppressed.
  • Disrupts hormones. Alcohol can help lower testosterone levels, which decreases sexual drive.
  • Dehydration. Alcohol can take away the blood and oxygen flow, which decreases sensation from the genitals.
  • Erectile dysfunction. When dehydration occurs, this can decrease blood volume, which increases angiotensin. This hormone has been associated with erectile dysfunction. With long-term use, damage can also occur in the nervous system, making it less efficient at triggering signals that cause an erection.

How does alcohol cause erectile dysfunction?

As explained earlier, alcohol can act as a depressant on the central nervous system and sedate the body and brain. While alcohol comes with many favourable effects like increased relaxation and warmth, it can also have many adverse effects. These include a decline in motor skills, a lack of inhibition and critical thinking, and decreased sexual performance. This occurs because alcohol can affect the systems vital for erection, nerve sensitivity, blood circulation, and sexual arousal.

This is the step-by-step process of erectile dysfunction due to heavy alcohol use:

  • When sexual arousal is experienced, messages are sent from the brain to the penis to tell it to be erect. However, the effects of alcohol slow the signal between the body and brain, resulting in erectile dysfunction.
  • This is exacerbated by dehydration caused by alcohol consumption. Blood volume is lowered, reducing circulation. A healthy erection relies on blood flow, so less blood means erectile problems are often experienced.
  • Alcohol can also interfere with the production of testosterone, further increasing the likelihood of erectile dysfunction.

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How long do the effects last?

For many people, erectile dysfunction due to heavy alcohol drinking will last until you sober up. After this, normal erections should occur. However, for those who are chronic heavy drinkers, long-term erectile dysfunction can occur.

When high levels of alcohol are constantly consumed, high blood pressure can develop, which damages blood vessels throughout the body over time. Due to these damaged vessels, blood flow to your heart, brain, and penis is restricted. While this can cause erectile dysfunction, damaged vessels can also increase heart disease and stroke risk.

The effects of heavy drinking can vary. Apart from temporary erectile dysfunction, heavy alcohol use can lead to long-term erectile dysfunction. Studies show men who are heavy alcohol drinkers have a 60-70% chance of suffering from sexual problems. These include premature ejaculation, decreased sexual desire, and persistent erectile dysfunction.

The bottom line

Alcohol is a great social lubricant, but consuming too much of it can directly impact your sex drive and performance.

Erectile dysfunction is a common symptom of heavy alcohol use in men. If you're looking to increase the frequency and intensity of your erections, limiting your alcohol intake can be a great start.

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