Please Stop Believing These 'Whiskey Dick' Inaccuracies
"[Much drink] provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance."
So wrote William Shakespeare in his play "Macbeth," aptly describing the paradox of the phenomenon known best as "whiskey dick."
More than 400 years later, the problem continues to plague people who drink alcohol and have penises.
"Whiskey dick is a colloquial name for alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction," said Jed Kaminetsky, M.D., a urology professor at NYU Langone Health in New York City and the founder of Manhattan Medical Research.
'Alcohol may make you more interested and relaxed, but it may have a negative effect on your erections.'
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection for long enough to have satisfactory intercourse.
Alcohol-induced ED may seem particularly unfair because—as Shakespeare put it—drinking can make you hornier but less able to have sex, noted Michael Werner, M.D., the medical director and founder of Maze Sexual & Reproductive Health, based in New York City and Purchase, New York.
"Alcohol may make you more interested and relaxed, but it may have a negative effect on your erections," Werner said.
In the centuries since Shakespeare wrote of alcohol's cruel effect on erections, myths and misconceptions about whiskey dick have proliferated. Here, urologists debunked some of the most common inaccuracies about alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction—aka whiskey dick.
Whiskey dick isn't real
Whiskey dick is absolutely real, according to Kaminetsky.
"It's a physiological response to the alcohol," he said.
"Alcohol in general is kind of a central nervous system depressant," said Katherine Rotker, M.D., a urologist and an assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine. "In small doses, it helps people feel more relaxed and lowers their inhibition. But at higher doses, the depression of that same central nervous system can really affect arousal, circulation and even signaling along the spinal cord."
In short, alcohol negatively affects most of the key ingredients responsible for erections.
Only whiskey causes whiskey dick
The name "whiskey dick" is a slight misnomer, Kaminetsky said. It's not just whiskey that causes whiskey dick—it's all alcohol.
With whiskey dick, what matters is not the type of alcohol, but the amount consumed and its impact on the individual's body.
Whiskey dick only happens to heavy drinkers
While chronic heavy drinkers may experience more frequent episodes of alcohol-induced ED, even moderate alcohol consumption can temporarily impair sexual performance in some people.
"If you have a lot of alcohol in your system, your penis will be less sensitive," Werner said. "This can happen on a one-time basis."
Whiskey dick only happens to men
Alcohol consumption can impact sexual performance in women as well, according to Rotker. The effects of alcohol are similar for all genders.
"In the short term, alcohol can lower inhibition or make people feel more relaxed, but in the longer term, it can hinder the ability to have an enjoyable sexual experience," she said.
"People talk about 'whiskey clit' and it's the same sort of thing," Kaminetsky said. "Women may become less lubricated and may have a harder time orgasming if they're drunk."
Whiskey dick is a permanent problem
In most cases, alcohol-induced ED is a temporary issue that resolves once the alcohol has left your system, according to Rotker. However, she noted chronic binge drinking is a medical issue that needs to be addressed and can cause long-term erection issues and other sexual health problems.
"Chronic alcohol use is its own problem, separate from the short-term effects of alcohol," Rotker said. "[With long-term chronic use], testicular hormone production can go down and blood vessels can be damaged."
Recurrent episodes of alcohol-induced ED could lead to long-term performance anxiety, Kaminetsky said.
"Guys are very emotionally attached to their penis and sexual performance," he said. "If [whiskey dick] keeps happening and the guy loses confidence, he may develop psychogenic erectile dysfunction, or performance anxiety."