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Last updated May 15, 2020. 3 minute read

"Whiskey dick" or alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction

“Whiskey dick,” also known as alcohol-induced ED, refers to erection problems that follow drinking alcohol. Booze impairs circulation and nerve sensitivity—two factors crucial to sexual arousal—and increases levels of a hormone linked to ED.

Self Written by Michael Martin
Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

How many times have you had a drink or two to get in the mood? Alcohol has a reputation as a sexual enabler and enhancer. Unfortunately, this libationary lothario status has led many of us to overindulge, leading to the only thing worse than a hangover: whiskey dick.

Vitals

  • “Whiskey dick,” also known as alcohol-induced ED, refers to erection problems that follow drinking alcohol. 
  • Booze impairs circulation and nerve sensitivity—two factors crucial to sexual arousal—and increases levels of a hormone linked to ED.
  • Reportedly, women experience it, too.
  • Whiskey dick usually abates when you sober up, but chronic heavy drinking can lead to long-term ED.

What is “whiskey dick”? Is it real?

“Whiskey dick,” or alcohol-related ED, is the inability to get a sufficient erection after consuming alcohol. You might not be able to get an erection at all or get one that’s weaker or doesn’t last as long as you like.

How many drinks does that take? It’s not an easy question to answer. Alcohol tolerance varies widely, depending on your individual body chemistry and factors such as how much you drink and how often, and so does the body’s reaction to it—including any effect on erectile function. 

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How does alcohol cause ED?


Alcohol acts as a depressant on the central nervous system (CNS). It has a sedating effect on the brain and body. That’s what causes its typical effects, both pleasant (relaxation, a feeling of warmth) and not so much (lack of inhibition, a decline in motor skills, and whiskey dick, to name a few). 

In the case of whiskey dick, alcohol affects some of the key systems involved in sexual arousal and erection, blood circulation, and nerve sensitivity.

  • During sexual arousal, the brain sends messages to the penis, telling it to become erect. Intoxication can slow down or interrupt those signals between the brain and body, resulting in ED.
  • Dehydration caused by drinking alcohol causes blood volume to decline, reducing circulation. Since erections are reliant on healthy blood flow, that can gum up the works.
  • Dehydration also causes levels of angiotensin, a hormone associated with ED, to rise. That makes blood vessels constrict, which is the opposite of what needs to happen during an erection.

Is there a female equivalent?

Sort of. At a certain point, alcohol consumption can interfere with sexual arousal in both genders. That’s because alcohol is dehydrating and, just as with men, reduces the circulation and nerve sensitivity that causes women to become aroused.

How long does it last?

Hopefully, whiskey dick will last only as long as it takes for you to sober up. But chronic drinking may also be one cause of ED.

In one study of 100 men who were heavy drinkers, 72% reported having a sexual dysfunction, including erection problems, premature ejaculation, and low sexual desire; 33% reported having ED. “Alcohol abuse is the leading cause of impotence and other disturbances in sexual dysfunction,” the researchers wrote (Arackal, 2007).   

Drinking too much alcohol can also increase your chances of developing high blood pressure (hypertension), which can damage blood vessels throughout the body. That can impede blood flow to your brain, heart, and penis, raising your risk of stroke, heart disease, and ED.

What to do if it happens to you

If you experience whiskey dick, it’s possible your body is telling you to take a look at how much you’re drinking.

Experts like the American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that to reduce your risk of serious problems like cancer and heart disease, it’s best to drink in moderation. That’s defined as no more than two drinks a day for men, and one daily drink for women. Your sex life can only benefit.