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Cialis and Alcohol: Is it Safe?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 02/11/2021

Updated 07/20/2023

Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects about 30 million men in the United States, and unfortunately, your risk may increase with age. Another thing that increases the risk of ED? Boozing a bit too hard.

It’s no secret in the science community (or among fresh-out-of-college frat bros) that too much drinking can keep you from achieving lift-off in the bedroom. Plenty of studies have shown that alcohol dependence and the prevalence of ED go hand in hand.

You can treat ED in a number of ways — and if you’re drinking too much, drinking less is one pretty obvious remedy. But lots of people wonder whether you can keep drinking — safely or at all — while on medications for ED like Cialis® (or the generic tadalafil).

So, what gives? Can Cialis — one of the most widely used ED treatments on the market — be taken safely by a guy who likes to drink in moderation? 

The answer is yes — but there are some caveats.

Below, we’ll explain the risks of drinking with Cialis, how to drink in moderation and the potential risks of alcohol use while on any prescription medication for ED. 

We know you’re probably hoping for a roadmap of what risks to avoid, but there isn’t a foolproof way to do that except to avoid alcohol altogether. That said, this article will help you make your own choices as safely and responsibly as possible. 

Let’s start from the top.

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Here’s the first and most important piece of information if you enjoy alcoholic beverages and erections (and are crossing your fingers right now for good news): Having one glass of wine, a beer or a cocktail every day will likely have little to no impact on how tadalafil operates in your body — or affects your overall health, for that matter.

But for the more complicated answer, we need to dig into the science behind ED meds.

How Cialis Works

Cialis is a prescription medication designed to treat erectile dysfunction and approved for this use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Tadalafil is the active ingredient in this prescription medication, and it falls into the same class of drugs as other erectile dysfunction medications like Viagra (sildenafil) and Levitra (vardenafil). These are called phosphodiesterase type-5 inhibitors (or PDE5 inhibitors).

PDE5 inhibitors like Cialis are the first line of treatment for erectile dysfunction. These drugs help you achieve an erection by relaxing the muscles in your penis and boosting blood flow to the area. 

They do it by affecting an enzyme (of the PDE5 variety) that regulates blood flow throughout the body, including blood flow to the erectile tissues in the penis. By blocking PDE5, Cialis and other ED medications enable blood to flow more easily into the penis when you become sexually aroused. As a result, it becomes easier to achieve and maintain an erection

When Alcohol Comes Into the Picture

When used properly, Cialis may help you reclaim your desired level of sexual satisfaction. More than 80 percent of men achieve satisfactory erections after taking it.

But like any supplement or prescription medication, it comes with the risk of side effects — and you should be careful about mixing it with substances like alcohol. 

The main reason? Alcohol kind of does the same thing to your body as an ED med. At intoxicating levels, alcohol acts as a vasodilator (something that dilates blood vessels), so combining the two could lead to a condition called orthostatic hypotension (a sudden drop in blood pressure).

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Orthostatic hypotension results from an inadequate physiologic response to postural changes in blood pressure. Clinically, it’s defined as a drop in systolic blood pressure by 20 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) or a drop in diastolic blood pressure by 10 mmHg that occurs within three minutes of standing up.

In lingo you might use with your friends over drinks, orthostatic hypotension is a drop in blood pressure that happens when you rise from standing or lying down. Common symptoms include dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, blurred vision, nausea and headaches.

To put it plainly, drinking alcohol while taking Cialis may lower your blood pressure, cause dizziness and potentially make you pretty sick. 

Though a minor, temporary decrease in blood pressure may not have any lasting effects on your health, it could put you at risk for a fall. If you pair Cialis with excessive alcohol consumption, the drop in blood pressure could become dangerous — not to mention the potential effects of long-term heavy alcohol consumption.

On top of other health risks, heavy drinking can further increase your risk for erectile dysfunction. 

Of course, there are more dangers of drinking and taking these medications. People need to be careful about using nitrates and be monitored for low blood pressure. That’s why it’s crucial to discuss any existing medical conditions (such as a history of heart problems) before taking PDE5 inhibitors.

But the reality is, many people do drink while using these medications safely and without side effects. How do they do it? One word: moderation.

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You should always consume alcohol safely and in moderation. And if you’re taking Cialis for erectile dysfunction, you may want to moderate your intake even further. 

The folks at the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) may seem like a bunch of nerds, but when they say drinking in moderation is important for your long-term health, they’re basing that on decades of research.

And according to the CDC, moderate consumption for an adult man is just two standard drinks. So you can pretty much forget about fishbowl cocktails and beer boots, bro.

Another thing you’ll want to remember with Cialis, in particular, is that — unlike other medications for ED — Cialis has a longer timeframe for being in your system.

Though Cialis works the same way as other ED medications, its effects last much longer. A dose of Viagra lasts around four hours, and Levitra lasts just a little longer, sometimes up to six hours.

Cialis, on the other hand, keeps working for up to 36 hours. This is critical, mainly because it increases the time when drinking alcohol could dangerously overlap with your medication’s active function in your bloodstream.

And yes, this could increase side effect risks. Generally speaking, Cialis is safe when taken as directed, but it’s not supposed to be washed down with a boilermaker, man. 

While we’re being the downer dad in the room, we’ll go ahead and add a few more warnings to the pile:

  • Be mindful of other drugs or substances you take while on Cialis, as the two might interact poorly. 

  • According to the FDA, the most common adverse reactions to Cialis are headache, back pain, congestion, flushing and indigestion. And since there’s lots of overlap between booze side effects (like dilated blood vessels) and Cialis, your wild night could turn into a really awful morning if you don’t curb your consumption.

  • You should only be taking Cialis with a healthcare provider-approved prescription — whether you’re drinking or not. So if you’re considering using a buddy’s pills for a recreational night, don’t do it.

  • If you already have blood pressure or cardiovascular issues (including low blood pressure, uncontrolled high blood pressure or a history of stroke or heart attack), talk to a healthcare professional about setting clear and firm limits around this medication.

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Drinking heavily while taking many prescription medications is just a bad idea. So if you’re wondering whether you’re at risk for serious side effects during your next regularly scheduled bender, you might consider cutting back on the booze.

We’re not trying to be killjoys, but in the long term, alcohol could contribute to the very problem you’re trying to treat with medication.
For the average alcohol-friendly guy, though, moderation will likely keep you in the clear to have a couple of beers, followed by a great night with your partner. 

Want the tl;dr on all this information? Here’s the best distilled version we can offer:

  • Having a beer or a glass of wine is unlikely to affect your health or your erections, but drinking excessively while on Cialis could be a recipe for certain health issues. 

  • The vasodilatory (blood vessel-dilating) effects of Cialis and alcohol combined could increase certain side effects of Cialis, potentially leading to headaches, dizziness or fainting related to hypotension. 

  • Compared to other ED drugs, Cialis usually stays in your system longer (as long as 36 hours). This makes it more likely that you’ll have both alcohol and the medication in your system at the same time.

  • If you choose to drink, you might want to extend the time between drinking and taking Cialis.

  • If you experience side effects while taking Cialis, speak to your healthcare provider about changing your dose or trying another medication.

Hopefully, this doesn’t crush your weekend plans too badly. But if you’re trying to find other ways to manage ED without medication (or want to switch to a different medication like Viagra or Stendra/avanafil), we can help. 

Our blog has plenty of advice on fighting ED with therapy, lifestyle changes and other approaches.

ED medication may still be necessary. If you want to strike a balance between sex and a social life, reach out — we can help you find the right tailored strategy to get you hard and keep you safe.

8 Sources

  1. HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION: CIALIS (tadalafil) tablets, for oral use . accessdata.fda.gov. (n.d.). https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/021368s20s21lbl.pdf.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022a, April 19). Facts about moderate drinking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm. Young, J. M., Feldman, R. A., Auerbach, S. M., Kaufman, J. M., Garcia, C. S., Shen, W., Murphy, A. M., Beasley, C. M., Jr, Hague, J. A., & Ahuja, S. (2005). Tadalafil improved erectile function at twenty-four and thirty-six hours after dosing in men with erectile dysfunction: US trial. Journal of andrology, 26(3), 310–318. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2164/jandrol.04126.
  3. Fuchs F. D. (2005). Vascular effects of alcoholic beverages: is it only alcohol that matters?. Hypertension (Dallas, Tex. : 1979), 45(5), 851–852. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/01.hyp.0000164627.01274.ec.
  4. Lanier, J. B., Mote, M. B., & Clay, E. C. (2011). Evaluation and management of orthostatic hypotension. American family physician, 84(5), 527–536. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2011/0901/p527.html.
  5. Arackal, B. S., & Benegal, V. (2007). Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in male subjects with alcohol dependence. Indian journal of psychiatry, 49(2), 109–112. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917074/.
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.-a). Definition & Facts for erectile dysfunction - NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts.
  7. Rashid A. (2005). The efficacy and safety of PDE5 inhibitors. Clinical cornerstone, 7(1), 47–56. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16156423/.
  8. Rew, K. T., & Heidelbaugh, J. J. (2016). Erectile Dysfunction. American family physician, 94(10), 820–827. https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2016/1115/p820.html.
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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