Whiskey dick refers to a temporary condition where a person cannot get or maintain an adequate erection after consuming too much alcohol.

Many individuals may drink alcohol to put them in the mood, with an estimated 4.3 million Americans regularly drinking before sex. However, as with other psychoactive substances, or drugs that impact how the brain works, alcohol can affect sexual function in all genders and often alter erectile function in males.

This article explores the term whiskey dick, including its causes, duration, and how to navigate it.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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The medical term for whiskey dick is alcohol-related erectile dysfunction or alcohol-induced sexual dysfunction. It is a temporary form of erectile dysfunction (ED) that occurs after a person drinks too much alcohol. While the term typically refers to a person with a penis, it also covers alcohol-induced sexual dysfunction in those without a penis.

Alcohol dependence is also associated with sexual dysfunction. Around 25% of people with alcohol dependence have ED, followed by not having a satisfying orgasm and premature ejaculation.

It may vary in severity. Some may get an erection but take a longer time to reach orgasm. Others may get an erection but not maintain it long enough for sexual activity, while others are unable to get an erection at all.

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it affects the central nervous system. It works by increasing the inhibitory activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This is a neurotransmitter that slows down brain activity, producing a general calming and sedating effect.

Consuming little alcohol is unlikely to have an immediate short-term impact on a person’s sexual function. At low doses, alcohol can cause disinhibition and relaxation.

At higher doses, alcohol can affect a person’s cognitive, perceptual, and motor functions. Their sexual performance may decrease and it can also impact nerve function, leading to a reduced response to sexual stimulation. Alcohol affects pathways involved in sexual arousal, blood circulation, and achieving an erection. It slows down the flow of signals from the brain to the spinal cord, which can lead to ED.

Excessive alcohol consumption can also impact testicular function and hormone production. Testosterone levels in the blood may also drop in as little as 30 minutes after consuming alcohol, which may lower sex drive and lead to poorer erections.

Chronic heavy drinking may damage blood vessels throughout the body, raising a person’s risk of ED, stroke, and heart disease. A 2021 study highlights that nearly half of people with alcohol dependence experience sexual dysfunction. A 2017 study notes that heavy and chronic drinking increases the risk of developing ED.

Learn more about the potential health risks of chronic heavy drinking.

Alcohol can affect sexual function in all genders.

Consuming alcohol at lower doses may increase subjective arousal and pleasure in some people. However, heavy alcohol use can reduce sexual arousal and may negatively affect sexual desire and satisfaction.

During arousal, there is an increased blood flow to the genitals, making them swell and lubricate. Alcohol can hinder this and cause decreased vaginal lubrication. It can also make it difficult for a person with a vagina to reach orgasm.

The amount of alcohol that can trigger sexual dysfunction depends on a person’s tolerance, how they respond to alcohol, and how fast their body metabolizes it. Factors that can influence how the body responds to alcohol includes:

  • genetics
  • weight
  • gender
  • age
  • drink content
  • food in the stomach
  • physical and emotional status
  • medications

Moreover, while the condition is known as whiskey dick, any drink that increases a person’s blood alcohol level can lead to alcohol-induced sexual dysfunction.

Learn more about how much alcohol it takes to get drunk.

Whiskey dick typically lasts until the body metabolizes the alcohol. However, as mentioned above, how long this takes will depend on several variables. The liver is the primary organ for metabolizing alcohol, often taking roughly 1 hour to metabolize 1 standard unit of alcohol. Health experts define one standard drink as:

  • 12 ounces (oz) of 5% alcohol beer
  • 5 oz of 12% alcohol wine
  • 1.5 oz of 40% alcohol distilled spirits

Experiencing whiskey dick right before engaging in sexual activity with a partner can be frustrating and embarrassing. However, it is important for people to be honest, understand the role alcohol is playing, and not get angry about the ability to achieve an erection or maintain arousal.

Open communication with one’s partner about the situation can help individuals decide on other romantic or sexual activities other than intercourse. People may still receive pleasure or achieve orgasm through other forms of stimulation, such as oral sex or stimulating erogenous zones.

Alternatively, people can explore intimacy beyond sexuality. This can involve several activities, such as sharing interests and cuddling.

If a person wishes to consume alcohol but avoid sexual dysfunction, experts recommend drinking in moderation. This means not drinking more than one drink per day for females and two per day for males. These are the recommendations according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025.

Other tips for drinking responsibly and preventing getting too intoxicated include:

  • having a meal before drinking
  • alternating alcoholic drinks with nonalcoholic drinks, such as water, juice, or soda
  • drinking slowly
  • not mixing alcohol with medications and other drugs

If a person experiences sexual dysfunction in rare circumstances, it might not be a cause of concern. However, if it happens more frequently and occurs even without consuming alcohol, it is advisable for a person to contact a doctor.

Often, ED is a sign of a more serious underlying problem and is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Evidence suggests that people with an ED diagnosis have a twofold risk of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular death.

Whiskey dick describes a phenomenon that affects a person’s sexual function after drinking too much alcohol. Despite what the term whiskey dick suggests, alcohol-induced sexual dysfunction can impact anyone if they drink too much of any alcoholic beverage.

A person can avoid alcohol-induced sexual dysfunction by controlling how much they drink and not getting too intoxicated. While it often manifests as temporary erectile dysfunction, chronic heavy alcohol use can result in persistent erectile dysfunction. Anyone who is regularly experiencing sexual dysfunction should consult with their doctor.