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If I stop drinking, will my ED go away? You’re not the first guy to wonder this.
Many of us enjoy an alcoholic beverage to have fun, celebrate, relax or even get in the mood in the bedroom.
But while a cocktail or two may make you feel more confident and boost your sexual desire in the moment, excessive alcohol consumption can make bedroom activities more difficult and impact your sexual performance.
You may have heard of the term “whiskey dick,” or alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction (ED). This temporary form of ED occurs under the influence of alcohol. If you’ve ever experienced whiskey dick — or deal with ED even after a night with very little booze — you should know you’re not alone.
But this might have you wondering if alcoholism and ED go hand-in-hand or thinking, If I stop drinking, will my ED go away?
We’ll explore if you can still experience ED after quitting alcohol and other ways to deal with erectile dysfunction from alcohol.
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To get straight to the point — yes, enough alcohol can be a cause of erectile dysfunction. If you’ve had a night out on the town with your partner only to later experience a major annoyance at the end of what was supposed to be a romantic night, your alcohol intake could be the culprit.
While research has found that alcohol is linked to riskier sexual behavior and that those who drink are more likely to have sex, the effects of alcohol aren’t good for a man’s sexual performance. To understand the connection between alcoholism and ED, it helps to know how erections work.
Erections usually begin with either mental or physical stimulation, which triggers a multi-step internal process involving your nervous system and cardiovascular system.
As you feel sexually stimulated, nerves located inside your penis release naturally occurring chemicals called neurotransmitters that cause blood vessels to relax. When the blood vessels widen, this increases blood flow to the erectile tissue inside your penis.
However, how alcohol affects you sexually is that alcohol disrupts this process in a few ways. It acts as a depressant and slows down your central nervous system, potentially making it more difficult to get and maintain an erection.
Alcohol also acts as a diuretic, speeding up the process of removing fluids through your renal system, which is why you usually need to pee more often when your alcohol intake is high. By causing you to urinate more often, drinking can lead to dehydration and reduce your total blood volume.
Since erections are all about healthy blood flow, this can make it even harder to get and maintain an erection.
Finally, becoming dehydrated causes the body to release a hormone called angiotensin, which increases blood pressure and helps the body retain water. Angiotensin also causes blood vessels to narrow, restricting blood flow and possibly making erections more difficult to achieve.
Long story short, heavy alcohol intake could increase your chances of experiencing temporary erectile dysfunction, and alcohol abuse can ultimately affect your health and sex life. But more often, whiskey dick isn’t a sign of long-term erectile dysfunction.
If you’ve been experiencing erectile dysfunction after a night of heavy drinking too often, you might be wondering, If I stop drinking, will my ED go away?
How long after quitting drinking does ED go away? Keep reading for insight.
So you’ve decided to stop drinking to see if your erectile dysfunction will also stop.
While everyone’s bodies are different and will experience varying alcohol withdrawal symptoms (which we’ll get into below), some studies have found promising results on ED after quitting alcohol.
In a small study of 100 people quitting alcohol, over 88 percent saw an improvement in erectile function after three months, with 61 percent experiencing no erectile dysfunction.
However, this study not only had relatively few participants, but it was also limited to a rehabilitation clinic and not to the general public, which may have affected the results.
Detoxing from alcohol can take about a week, according to American Addiction Centers. But some people may experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms for longer.
Of course, alcohol isn’t the only cause of erectile dysfunction, and you may continue experiencing ED even after you stop drinking.
There are several causes of erectile dysfunction, including physical health, mental health, the use of certain medications or substances and lifestyle habits.
Physical causes can include heart disease, high cholesterol, chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity and habits that affect your physical health like smoking.
Oftentimes, psychological causes are the main reason for ED. Mental health issues can negatively affect your erections, sexual desire and overall sexual health, including common problems such as depression, stress and anxiety — like sexual performance anxiety.
We’ve covered how alcohol can cause ED, but certain medications may also be responsible for affecting your erections. Antidepressants, high blood pressure medication, antihistamines and antiandrogens (medications that reduce the production of male sex hormone levels) are some medications that may cause ED.
The best way to know what’s causing your erectile dysfunction is to talk with a healthcare provider about your symptoms, when and how often you experience ED, any health conditions you have and medications you’re currently taking.
While quitting alcohol is one way to possibly reduce or stop erectile dysfunction, the initial period after quitting excessive drinking may cause ED.
If you’re a heavy drinker or have an alcohol addiction or alcohol use disorder, there’s a chance you could experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms that cause sexual dysfunction. This includes:
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can also cause symptoms such as high blood pressure that could potentially interfere with the ability to get an erection.
So while quitting alcohol abuse may cause short-term symptoms that contribute to ED, it’ll likely improve your sexual health in the long run.
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Reducing your alcohol intake or even completely cutting out alcoholic beverages could treat your erectile dysfunction. There are plenty of other natural ways to reduce erectile dysfunction as well:
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can affect your ability to get and maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. Maintaining a healthy body weight through diet and exercise may reduce your risk for ED.
Watch your blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase your risk for ED. What’s more, drinking alcohol can heighten blood pressure. A healthcare provider may recommend consuming less sodium in your diet, reducing alcohol intake, increasing your exercise level or taking steps to relax to lower your blood pressure.
Eat a nutritious diet. While a singular food won’t magically cure erectile dysfunction, eating a diet full of leafy greens, whole grains, healthy fats, lean protein and other foods could reduce ED.
Start therapy. If you’re using alcohol to try and reduce sexual performance anxiety, it could be backfiring and causing ED instead. But since mental health is often a cause of erectile dysfunction, talking to a mental health professional (online or in-person) could very well improve your sex life.
These and many other natural ways to reduce ED could improve your sexual health. There are also proven treatment options, often in the form of medication.
The most common erectile dysfunction medications are oral medications called PDE5 inhibitors that increase blood flow to the tissue inside your penis. PDE5 inhibitors include sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®).
While alcohol may have a reputation as something that increases sexual desire, drinking too much can seriously impact your sexual performance and even cause erectile dysfunction. If you’ve found yourself experiencing ED one too many times after a night out partying, you might be wondering, If I stop drinking, will my ED go away?
There’s a good chance your erectile dysfunction could stop when you stop drinking, especially if your ED only seems to occur after consuming more than a few drinks or if you have an alcohol addiction. But erectile dysfunction has many causes, from lifestyle habits (like heavy drinking or smoking) to physical and mental health issues.
While quitting drinking will certainly have a healthy impact on your sex life, the best way to know what’s causing your erectile dysfunction is to consult with a healthcare provider. They can help narrow down the possible causes and find the right treatment for your erectile dysfunction.
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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]!
Dr. Vicky Davis is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over 20 years of experience in clinical practice, leadership and education.
Dr. Davis' expertise include direct patient care and many years working in clinical research to bring evidence-based care to patients and their families.
She is also an active member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.