Long-Term Alcohol Abuse and Erectile Dysfunction
Alcohol and Erectile Dysfunction
Alcohol has a reputation for increasing sexual desire, but for men, alcohol, heavy drinking, and long-term alcohol abuse are more likely to lead to erectile dysfunction rather than satisfaction. Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is the inability to achieve an erection or maintain one long enough to reach an orgasm.
To achieve and maintain an erection, a person’s brain, hormones, nerve endings, and blood flow to the penis must all be in sync, and alcohol interrupts all these. Even when sexual desire is present, the body might not comply if you’ve been drinking alcohol.
Constant drinking will worsen erectile dysfunction, which may cause feelings of shame and embarrassment that men will turn to alcohol to alleviate, becoming a vicious, repeating cycle. There is a lot of pressure on men to maintain a masculine persona, including an active and robust sex life. In an attempt to have it all and keep up with the demands of professional obligations and personal expectations, they become high-functioning alcoholics.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that “sexual dysfunction is significantly and positively associated with duration, amount of alcohol consumed per day, and severity of alcohol dependence.” The more you drink, the higher your risk of erectile dysfunction.
Does Alcohol Cause Erectile Dysfunction?
Yes, alcohol causes erectile dysfunction, both situationally and long-term. Studies have shown that alcohol abuse is the leading cause of erectile dysfunction and sexual dissatisfaction in men between the ages of 20 to 50. Erectile dysfunction is the most common problem, followed closely by reduced sexual desire, inability to achieve orgasm, and premature ejaculation.
Alcohol affects the central nervous system by acting as a depressant, which among other things, affects sexual performance. As the amount of alcohol in your blood, or blood alcohol content (BAC), increases, the effects of alcohol become more pronounced.
Below is a brief overview of the effects of alcohol that contribute to decreased sexual function.
- Increased blood pressure – when blood pressure is high, there is reduced blood flow to the penis, which reduces the chance of an erection.
- Dulled nerve endings – sensitive areas become less responsive to arousing stimulation due to alcohol.
- Reduced testosterone – excess alcohol in men, whether from binge drinking or alcoholism, reduces testosterone production, which is integral to sexual function in men.
- Dehydration – dehydration shrinks blood vessels and lowers circulation; when blood flow to the penis is low, erections are unlikely.
- Mental health – alcohol may reduce inhibitions, but it can also worsen anxiety and depression, resulting in a lack of sexual desire or sexual performance anxiety.
Alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction may be a temporary condition after excessive drinking. Still, with chronic, heavy alcohol consumption, your sex life, sex drive, and overall sexual performance abilities will all face long-term damage.
Can Alcohol Cause Permanent Erectile Dysfunction?
Alcohol can cause recurring and persistent erectile dysfunction, but it is rarely permanent. Alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction is usually a side effect of more severe health issues caused by long-term drinking. With proper medical care and time, a healthy sexual desire and ability typically return.
Some of the chronic alcohol-related issues that can cause or worsen erectile dysfunction include:
- Heart and cardiovascular damage – High blood pressure, narrow blood vessels, and reduced circulation all contribute to higher rates of erectile dysfunction due to reduced blood flow to the penis.
- Diabetes – Erectile dysfunction is one of many risks and complications of alcohol use and diabetes.
- Neurological damage – Alcohol-induced brain damage affects the response to physical stimulation and hormone production. Reduced sensation, low testosterone levels, and a lack of other sex hormones cause erectile dysfunction.
- Mental health disorders – Drinking worsens co-occurring conditions like depression and anxiety, which frequently cause a decrease in sexual function. Erectile dysfunction can also be a side effect of mixing alcohol and antidepressants.
Most alcohol-related physical and mental health issues that cause erectile dysfunction are treatable. However, a follow-up study revealed a large portion of people treated for alcohol dependence who abstained from alcohol but did not receive behavioral therapy continued to experience sexual dysfunction.
It is important to remember that erectile dysfunction is just one of many dangers of alcohol abuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies excessive alcohol use as a risk to men’s sexual health, including an increased risk of unprotected sex and sex with multiple partners, leading to high rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Additionally, alcohol is a crucial risk factor in men becoming involved in sexual assaults, both as perpetrators and victims.
Treatment for Alcohol Dependence in Northridge, California
If you are ready to confront your alcohol dependence and overcome all the complications it’s brought to your life, you don’t have to do it alone. At Northridge Addiction Treatment Center, we work closely with our residents to develop personalized treatment plans centered around evidence-based treatments and therapies that begin to heal the whole person, not just the individual’s substance use disorder symptoms.
We offer onsite medical detox with around-the-clock medical care and support to reduce withdrawal symptoms and alcohol cravings. Once your body is detoxed, you can continue regaining your strength with our gourmet chef-catered meals, onsite amenities, and the fresh air and sunshine of the San Fernando Valley surrounding our residential treatment center in Northridge, California.
Through individual therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and guided support groups, you’ll learn to reframe the negative thoughts that contributed to addiction, develop healthy coping skills to prevent relapse, and keep you on your path to lifelong recovery.
Reach out today; our treatment specialists are eager to help you. Your journey to a meaningful recovery is just a phone call away.
Find Meaningful Recovery
Our caring and compassionate specialists are eager to help you comfortably navigate this journey to recovery. Our individualized treatment plan, programs, and therapies may be a perfect match for you or your loved one. Let us assist you in living the happy life you deserve. It starts with a phone call.