Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/29/2021
While alcohol may have a reputation as something that all too often leads to sex, drinking too much can seriously impact your sexual performance and even cause you to experience ED.
Whiskey dick, or alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction, is a form of erectile dysfunction that can occur after you drink alcohol. Although it’s usually only temporary, it can be a major annoyance when it strikes at the end of a fun, romantic night with your partner.
Like with many things related to sex and alcohol, there are countless myths about how whiskey dick occurs. There are also numerous completely unscientific yet surprisingly popular “tricks” to avoid whiskey dick after a night of heavy drinking.
Below, we’ve explained the science behind how and why whiskey dick happens when you drink too much alcohol.
We’ve also explained what you can do to maintain your sexual performance and avoid common issues like whiskey dick after a night out.
Whiskey dick is a form of temporary erectile dysfunction that occurs when you drink too much alcohol before sex. Related read: How Long does Temporary Erectile Dysfunction Last?
As you’ve probably guessed, “whiskey dick” isn’t a common medical term. This type of erectile dysfunction is usually referred to as alcohol-induced sexual dysfunction.
Alcohol affects your central nervous system (CNS), which plays a major role in sexual arousal and performance. It also affects your production of certain hormones that can cause erectile dysfunction.
Whiskey dick can vary in severity. You may find it difficult or impossible to get hard at all, or simply have a weaker erection than when you’re sober.
Most of the time, whiskey dick isn’t a sign of long-term ED. However, excessive drinking can affect your sexual performance and health over the long term, making it important to take action if you’re starting to drink alcohol too often.
If you have ED, it’s important to talk to a healthcare provider to learn more about treating erectile dysfunction. If appropriate, they can prescribe medication to treat erectile dysfunction and improve your sexual performance.
Whiskey dick is a temporary form of erectile dysfunction that can occur when you’re intoxicated due to alcohol consumption. After drinking, you may find that you can’t get or keep an erection, even if you’re strongly in the mood for sex.
Whiskey dick develops as a result of the effects alcohol has on your cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Alcohol is, after all, a depressant, which means that it has a slowing effect on your Central Nervous System (CNS).
As you consume alcohol and your CNS is affected, it can impair reasoning, reaction time and motor skills, and also messes with the information brought to and relayed from the brain to other parts of your body — including, yes, your penis. Bummer.
Clinically, whiskey dick is referred to as alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction, or alcohol-induced sexual dysfunction. It can last for several hours, although it usually slowly improves as you start to sober up.
Yes and no. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, meaning you and your partner might be more likely to rush home for a night of fun after a few drinks.
Alcohol is also associated with riskier sexual behaviors. For example, research published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol found that young adults were more likely to have casual sex after drinking alcohol.
However, on a physiological level, alcohol isn’t particularly good for your sexual performance as a man. In fact, alcohol has several negative effects on your sexual performance:
First, alcohol is a depressant that slows your central nervous system. Your nerves play a key role in the process of getting an erection by sending impulses from your brain to the erectile tissue of your penis. By depressing your central nervous system, alcohol slows this process down, potentially making it harder for you to get and maintain an erection.
Second, as a diuretic, alcohol speeds up your body’s process of removing fluids through your renal system. This is why you’ll usually need to pee more often when you drink a lot of beer, wine or other beverages that contain alcohol. By making you urinate often, alcohol can cause 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.
Third, by causing you to become dehydrated, alcohol triggers the release of a hormone called angiotensin. This hormone is responsible for increasing your blood pressure and helping your body to retain water and sodium. Angiotensin causes vasoconstriction, or a narrowing of your blood vessels. By further reducing the flow of blood to your penis, you may find it even more challenging to stay hard during sex.
The more alcohol you drink in a short period of time, the stronger these effects become. This is why you’re much more likely to deal with whiskey dick after a long, wild night of shots than after a drink or two at dinner time.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s no scientific proof that any one type of alcoholic drink is more likely to cause sexual performance issues than others.
All alcoholic drinks contain ethyl alcohol, or ethanol, although the concentration can vary from one drink to another.
Put simply, whiskey dick isn’t only caused by whiskey. Any type of alcoholic drink can potentially affect your sexual performance if it’s consumed in excess.
Dealing with erectile dysfunction can be awkward, especially when it occurs after you and your partner have had a few drinks.
The best way to deal with whiskey dick is usually to be upfront, honest and transparent about it with your partner. Let them know that although you want to have sex, you’re a little too drunk for your body to agree with you.
Since whiskey dick is normally temporary, you may find it easier to get and stay hard when you wake up the next morning. Just make sure to have a glass of water before you sleep to prevent a hangover from interfering with your next-morning sex plans.
Alternatively, have fun with your partner without having penetrative sex. From oral sex to mutual masturbation, there are numerous ways to have a satisfying, sexy night even if you can’t get or stay fully hard.
The most effective way to prevent whiskey dick is to limit your alcohol consumption. Since this form of erectile dysfunction is caused entirely by the effects of alcohol, drinking less is an easy, effective way to significantly reduce your risk of being affected.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to completely avoid alcohol. If you like a drink every now and then, try to enjoy alcohol in moderation without drinking to excess.
One good way to drink responsibly is to stick to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommendation of up to two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women.
If you’re out for a night of drinks with friends or your partner, try using the following techniques to drink responsibly:
Set a limit to avoid getting carried away. Before you go out, set a limit for yourself and stick to it. Knowing ahead of time that you’re only going to have one or two drinks makes it harder to keep drinking round after round.
Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. If you drink, try having a water, soda or other non-alcoholic beverage between every beer, glass of wine or other drink that contains alcohol. This not only lowers the total amount of alcohol you consume -- it also helps to keep you hydrated, reducing your risk of developing a hangover the next morning.
Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Try to have a snack or meal before you drink or while you’re drinking. Food slows down your body’s absorption of alcohol, meaning you may not feel intoxicated so quickly.
Stick to low-alcohol drinks. Try to stick to drinks that only contain one standard serving of alcohol, such as normal-sized glasses of beer or wine. Many cocktails contain several standard drinks per glass, making it easy to become intoxicated quickly.
Drink something non-alcoholic that looks like alcohol. If you’re worried about being pressured to drink, order a soda, sparkling water or other beverage that looks similar to a cocktail but doesn’t contain alcohol.
If you have a drinking problem, seek expert help. If you often drink alcohol to excess, reach out for expert help. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has a list of resources that you can use to find treatment for alcohol problems in your area.
Most of the time, alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction will go away as your body metabolizes the alcohol and you sober up.
If you often find it difficult to get an erection, even after drinking moderately, your ED issues may not be caused solely by alcohol.
Erectile dysfunction is a common issue that can affect men of all ages. About 30 million men are affected by ED in the US alone.
A variety of factors can cause ED, from your physical health to psychological issues, lifestyle factors or your use of certain types of medication.
If you have persistent ED that occurs with or without alcohol, you can get ED help online from a licensed healthcare provider.
Most of the time, ED can be treated with medication. If you’re prone to erectile dysfunction, your healthcare provider may prescribe sildenafil (generic Viagra, the active ingredient in Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®), avanafil (Stendra®) or similar medication to improve your sexual performance.
These medications work by increasing blood flow to your penis, making it easier to get and keep an erection when you feel sexually aroused.
Although it’s okay to use these medications with a small amount of alcohol, you’ll need to avoid drinking to excess if you use medication to treat ED.
You can learn more about how these medications work, their safety, side effects and more in our guide to the most common ED treatments and drugs.
Whiskey dick is a common annoyance that can occur when you drink too much alcohol before having sex.
The easiest way to prevent whiskey dick is to drink alcohol responsibly. Try to limit yourself to a maximum of two drinks per night and use the tips listed above to drink slowly and steadily when you’re out with friends or your partner.
If you have persistent ED that occurs with or without alcohol, talk to a healthcare provider to find out more about your ED treatment options.