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Viagra and Alcohol: What You Need to Know

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown, MD

Written by Nicholas Gibson

Published 07/12/2019

Updated 03/28/2024

Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a common problem that affects men of all ages. In fact, research published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) shows that about 30 million men in the United States, or just under a third of the entire US adult male population, are affected by some degree of ED.

Thankfully, ED is a very treatable condition. If you’re one of the many men affected by ED, you can improve your erections and sexual function using medications like Viagra® (sildenafil).

While Viagra is safe and effective for most men, using it with alcohol can affect its performance as an ED treatment and increase your risk of experiencing certain side effects.

Below, we’ve explained what can happen when you drink alcohol and use Viagra or similar ED medications. We’ve also discussed what you can do to keep yourself safe if you take the “little blue pill” or other medication to treat ED while consuming alcohol.

The Truth About Viagra and Alcohol: What You Need to Know

Although drinking excessive amounts of alcohol with Viagra isn’t recommended, it’s usually safe to drink a small amount of alcohol on nights you plan to use Viagra.

As always, the normal rules of drinking alcohol apply, whether you’re consuming alcohol on its own or with ED medication:

  • Know your limits. Everyone has a different tolerance level for alcohol. Understand your limits and know when it’s time to stop drinking. If you feel tipsy, slow down and switch to something non-alcoholic to give yourself time to recover.

  • Drink slowly. Your body needs time to metabolize alcohol. Slow down your drinking by sipping your drink instead of gulping it down all at once, and try only to finish one drink per hour.

  • Switch between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. If you’re out with your date or at a party, limit your alcohol consumption by drinking a non-alcoholic drink between each beer, wine or cocktail.

  • If you feel drunk, take a break from drinking. The effects of alcohol can build up over time, then hit you suddenly. If you feel drunk, take a break and switch to a non-alcoholic drink for the rest of the evening.

  • Remember that Viagra and sildenafil are the same. Sildenafil is the active ingredient in Viagra, meaning you’ll need to take the same precautions while drinking if you opt for generic sildenafil over brand-name Viagra.

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Drinking a small amount of alcohol with Viagra is usually okay. In fact, some research has even found that men who drink a moderate amount of alcohol with Viagra don’t appear to show many concerning issues.

For example, in one 2004 study published in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, men were each given a 100mg dose of sildenafil, the ingredient in Viagra. This is the maximum dose of Viagra that’s used to treat ED.

Several of the men in the study were also given 750mL of red wine — the amount of wine found in a standard-sized wine bottle.

Over the course of three hours of monitoring, the researchers didn’t see any clinically important hemodynamic interaction between the sildenafil pill and the alcohol.

Although the findings here are certainly interesting, it's still best to avoid drinking alcohol in large quantities while using Viagra (or any other type of ED medication).

It’s also worth noting that this study didn’t look at the men’s sexual performance after combining alcohol and Viagra — an issue we’ll address further down the page.

Actually, no time at all, if you’re healthy. In fact, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) package insert for Viagra, in clinical trials, Viagra and alcohol didn’t have any adverse interactions in healthy volunteers.

Drinking alcohol with Viagra isn’t wildly dangerous, provided you stick to drinking in moderation.

“Moderation” can mean different things for different people. However, when it comes to alcohol, a good limit is two standard drinks per night, which is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol recommendation.

A standard drink is defined as:

  • 12 ounces of 5% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer.

  • 8 ounces of 7% ABV malt liquor.

  • 5 ounces of 12% ABV wine.

  • 1.5 ounces of 40% ABV spirits, such as rum, vodka, gin or whiskey.

In other words, a beer or two throughout a night out with your friends or a date isn’t likely to cause any issues if you plan to use Viagra once you get home.

However, you’ll probably want to put the shot glasses away and avoid high-alcohol cocktails, as the alcohol content of these drinks can quickly add up over time — but that’s more about being intoxicated than Viagra. Just a friendly pro-tip from your friends here at Hims.

Although having a small amount of alcohol with Viagra usually isn’t cause for concern, excessive drinking may increase your risk of developing side effects.

Common side effects of Viagra include:

  • Headaches

  • Flushing

  • Dyspepsia (indigestion)

  • Low blood pressure

  • Abnormal vision

  • Nasal congestion

  • Muscle soreness

  • Back pain

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea

  • Rash

We’ve discussed these adverse effects in more detail in our guide to sildenafil and Viagra side effects.

Research shows that your risk of experiencing side effects from Viagra can increase if you drink a significant amount of alcohol.

For example, a study published in the journal Sexual Medicine, which involved more than 300 men with ED, found that men who consumed above-average amounts of alcohol were more likely to develop headaches and flushing from ED medications than men who don’t drink.

What’s more, according to the NIH, drinking an excessive amount of alcohol, even on just one occasion, comes with its own set of side effects.

These include but are not limited to:

  • Changes in your mood or behavior

  • Confusion and/or clouded thinking

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Cardiomyopathy (changes in the heart muscle)

  • Liver issues and inflammation

  • Weakened immune system

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Pancreatitis

  • Stroke

Alcohol is a depressant to your central nervous system that has the potential to constrict blood vessels and reduce blood flow throughout your body.

Viagra is a phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor, or PDE5 inhibitor, that makes getting an erection easier. Viagra works by improving blood flow to your penis.

Because these two substances have very different effects on blood flow, the Viagra-alcohol mix may actually cancel out the positive sexual performance effects of Viagra and make it harder to get and maintain an erection.

In other words, not only are you more at risk of side effects if you drink a lot of alcohol while you use Viagra — you might also be more at risk of dealing with ED.

For more sildenafil warnings, you can read our blog.

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Viagra has not been proven to be a direct cause of heart attacks — a topic we’ve covered more in our guide to whether Viagra can cause a heart attack.

However, according to the American Heart Association, long-term abuse of alcohol and chronic binge drinking can increase your risk of experiencing a heart attack.

Also, seek medical advice if you have a history of heart conditions and plan to drink with your dose of Viagra. They may be able to share some different, safer treatment options for your erection problems.

While it’s generally alright to drink a small amount of alcohol with Viagra, you may need to be extra cautious if you like drinks containing grapefruit juice.

Grapefruit juice increases the bioavailability of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. It also delays your body’s processing of sildenafil.

The effects and side effects of Viagra may be more long-lasting and if it’s combined with drinks that contain grapefruit.

As such, it’s best to avoid cocktails that contain grapefruit while you use Viagra, generic Viagra or generic sildenafil.

Cocktails that contain grapefruit juice include the Greyhound, the Paloma, the Brown Derby (or "De Rigueur"), the Sea Breeze and grapefruit-based variations of common cocktails such as a margarita and mojito.

While it’s generally safe to drink a small amount of alcohol with Viagra, it’s worth remembering that alcohol usually isn’t a great choice for optimal sexual performance.

Although a glass of wine or two can help to set the mood for a romantic night, research shows that alcohol is associated with several negative effects on sexual function.

In a study of alcohol-dependent men published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, researchers found that 72 percent had one or more forms of sexual dysfunction.

The most common types of sexual dysfunction were erectile dysfunction, reduced sexual desire (low libido) and premature ejaculation.

Other research into the effects of alcohol on sexual activity and performance tends to show the same patterns.

Long-term alcohol use is highly associated with ED, although there’s less of a link in occasional drinkers. Interestingly, this link isn’t present in men who only drink a mild to moderate amount of alcohol.

In a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found that men who drink a moderate amount of alcohol (defined as one to 20 standard drinks per week) were less likely to have erectile dysfunction than men who completely abstain from drinking.

While excessive drinking is clearly associated with reduced sexual performance, the link between mild alcohol consumption and issues such as ED isn’t so clear. We have an entire article about how alcohol affects you sexually.

As such, moderation is essential if you like to drink alcohol and want to lower your risk of sexual health issues such as ED.

While using Viagra with a small amount of alcohol doesn’t seem to have any immediate health risks, it could make the medication less effective as a treatment for erectile dysfunction for several reasons.

Viagra, Alcohol and Blood Flow

First, as we briefly mentioned earlier, Viagra and alcohol both affect blood flow throughout your body, but in different ways.

Research published in the journal Heart and Circulatory Physiology shows that drinking a small amount of alcohol can positively affect your cardiovascular health. However, this effect reverses as the amount of alcohol you consume increases.

When you drink an excessive amount of alcohol, this may counteract the effects of Viagra and make it harder for you to get and maintain an erection when you’re aroused.

Alcohol and Testosterone Production

Second, research shows that alcohol can suppress your body’s testosterone levels. Since your levels of testosterone are closely linked to sexual desire, this might reduce your level of interest in sex and prevent you from becoming aroused.

In a review published in the journal Alcohol Research, experts found that alcohol consumption is associated with reduced testosterone levels.

This means that despite the common belief that alcohol increases your level of interest in sex, you might actually feel less interested in having sex if you drink frequently.

Alcohol and Whiskey Dick

Third, alcohol is infamous for causing a sexual performance issue known as whiskey dick, or alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction. This temporary form of ED may pop up after you’ve had too much to drink and ruin what could have otherwise been an enjoyable night.

Combined, these factors may make ED medications like Viagra slightly less effective if you’ve consumed alcohol.

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While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a drink or two before you use Viagra, it’s important to drink responsibly if you want to stay safe and enjoy good sexual performance.

This is also true if you use other medications for erectile dysfunction, such as Cialis® (tadalafil), Levitra (vardenafil) or Stendra® (avanafil).

If you use ED medication and like to enjoy a drink every now and then, make sure you keep the following in mind:

  • Mild drinking with Viagra is likely okay, but heavy drinking isn’t. Stick to one or two drinks when you’re taking Viagra. Exceeding this amount may increase your risk of side effects, both from Viagra and from alcohol.

  • Drinking might make your ED symptoms worse. We’ve all heard of whiskey dick. To avoid disappointment once you get home with your partner, understand your limits when it comes to alcohol and stop drinking before you plan to have sex.

If you think you might have ED, you can get help online using our range of evidence-based ED medications.

You can also learn more about your options, from medication to healthy habits, in our full guide to maintaining an erection.

12 Sources

  1. Definition & Facts for Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts
  2. Atkins, et al. (2004, October). No adverse hemodynamic interaction between sildenafil and red wine. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 76 (4), 365-70. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15470336/
  3. Duffin, et al. (2008, February). Sildenafil reduces alcohol-induced gastric damage: Just say 'no'. British journal of pharmacology. Retrieved December 16, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2259209/
  4. Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol. (2022, April 19). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm
  5. VIAGRA- sildenafil citrate tablet, film coated. (2017, August). Retrieved from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/spl/data/40578e70-350a-4940-9630-55d90989c146/40578e70-350a-4940-9630-55d90989c146.xml
  6. Kim, J.N., et al. (2019, December). Influence of Alcohol on Phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors Use in Middle- to Old-Aged Men: A Comparative Study of Adverse Events. Sexual Medicine. 7 (4), 425-432. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6963111/
  7. Alcohol's Effects on the Body. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body
  8. Heavy drinking may cause heart damage before symptoms appear. www.heart.org. (2022, June 2). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/news/2019/12/18/heavy-drinking-may-cause-heart-damage-before-symptoms-appear
  9. Arackal, B.S. & Benegal, V. (2007, April-June). Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in male subjects with alcohol dependence. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 49 (2), 109–112. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917074/
  10. Bremner, et al. (2009, May). Alcohol consumption and male erectile dysfunction: an unfounded reputation for risk? The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 6 (5), 1386-94. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19143912/
  11. Spaak, J., et al. (2008, February). Dose-related effects of red wine and alcohol on hemodynamics, sympathetic nerve activity, and arterial diameter. Heart and Circulatory Physiology. 294 (2), H605-H612. Retrieved from https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpheart.01162.2007
  12. Rachdaoui, N. & Sarkar, D.K. (2017). Pathophysiology of the Effects of Alcohol Abuse on the Endocrine System. Alcohol Research. 38 (2), 255-276. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5513689/
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.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown, MD

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown is a founding member of Posterity Health where she is Medical Director and leads strategy and design of their Digital Health Platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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