What Is Alcohol Really Doing to Your Penis?
There's nothing wrong with having a few drinks after work, at a barbecue or in a social setting, but 22 percent of American men binge drink—defined as five or more drinks in two hours—an average of five times a month.
It's well-known that binge drinking is harmful, but there's one aspect most men probably don't consider when they're playing their third game of beer pong: How is this going to affect my penis?
The effects of alcohol in the short term
Most men have heard the term "whiskey dick," whether they've experienced it or listened to a friend relate a failed sexual encounter that they blamed on booze. Luckily, erectile dysfunction (ED) caused by alcohol consumption is a temporary condition that happens for several reasons. Firstly, as a depressant, alcohol slows the flow of information from the central nervous system to the rest of the body, and yes, that includes the penis. Drinking too much means your penis isn't receiving the cues it needs to get hard, no matter how aroused you might be.
Beyond that, alcohol is also a diuretic, meaning it causes you to urinate more. If you haven't been hydrating with water throughout the night, you can run the risk of becoming dehydrated. When you're dehydrated, the volume of blood in your body decreases, which means you have less blood to make your penis erect. Dehydration also boosts the body's level of angiotensin, which is a hormone linked to ED.
So, what do you do if you get caught with your pants down, unable to get it up? Erectile dysfunction is never a fun thing to experience; it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. But remember it's more common than you may think. The best way to handle the situation is to be honest with your partner. If you're too drunk to get erect, you might be better off not having sex anyway.
The effects of alcohol in the long term
Getting whiskey dick a few times when you've been drinking isn't cause for alarm, but at a certain point, it can dip into dangerous territory. If you find that you're drinking more often than usual or you feel dependent on alcohol, you should consult your doctor.
Researchers have conducted studies linking alcohol to sexual dysfunction and found that 72 percent of alcohol-dependent men experience at least one type of sexual dysfunction. The most common types were premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction and low sexual desire. And it becomes a vicious cycle as an increase in sexual dysfunction can worsen feelings of distress and damage relationships, which in turn often leads to increased consumption of alcohol.
It's not all bad news, though. In moderate amounts, alcohol can have a positive effect on health, especially with the prostate. Studies have shown that consumption of two or more alcoholic drinks per day can reduce the risk of an enlarged prostate by 33 percent. A study from Harvard Medical School found that red wine reduces the risk of prostate cancer.
What does all of this mean?
In short, there's nothing necessarily wrong with moderate alcohol consumption—in some cases, it can be beneficial to maintaining your sexual health. The key is not to overdo it. Men have a higher tendency toward alcohol dependency than women, so they should be careful to watch their alcohol intake.
If you feel you are dependent on alcohol and are looking for help, be sure to contact your doctor or reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline either online or by calling 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Remember, support is always available.