The Science of "Whiskey Dick" & How to Avoid It

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Updated 03/05/2023

Whiskey dick — every man's worst nightmare. While alcohol may have a reputation as something that all too often leads to sex, drinking too much can lead to no sex at all. 

Hey, it happens to the best of us, but there are some pretty simple things you can do to avoid it.

Whiskey dick is a colloquial term for temporary alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction. Though the occasional case of whiskey dick shouldn’t cause you any major concern, it can be a huge bummer when it strikes at the end of an otherwise fun and romantic night.

As with many things 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.  

So what’s real and what's a drunken myth? Below, we’ve answered that question and explained the science behind how — and why — whiskey dick happens. We’ve also explained what you can do to maintain your sexual performance and avoid common issues like whiskey dick after a night out. 

TL;DR Whiskey Dick

There’s a lot we can tell you about this condition, but if you want the basics on alcohol and erectile dysfunction, you can start here.

  • Whiskey dick is a form of temporary erectile dysfunction that occurs when you drink too much alcohol before sex. 

  • As you’ve probably guessed, “whiskey dick” isn’t an official medical term. This type of erectile dysfunction is technically 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.

What is Whiskey Dick?

So there you were. That quick dinner and a drink turned into a full three-course meal, two bottles of red and more tension than a Nicholas Sparks novel.

You say your goodbyes, your date gets in their cab and just before it pulls away, they ask if you'd like to get in.

A short ride later, you're back at their place, in their bed and... nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

That, friends, is whiskey dick.

Whiskey dick is an alcohol-related temporary form of erectile dysfunction. Clinically, it’s referred to as alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction, or alcohol-induced sexual dysfunction.

Alcohol is  a depressant, which means that it slows down your central nervous system (CNS). That’s why alcohol consumption can impair reasoning, reaction time and motor skills. It can also mess with the information that goes between the brain and other parts of your body — including your penis. Bummer. 

These effects can last for several hours, although they usually slowly improve as you start to sober up. 

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But Doesn’t Alcohol Increase Sexual Desire? 

Doesn’t alcohol have benefits to offer for your sex life too? Yes and no. Drinking alcohol lowers your inhibitions, meaning you and your partner might be more inclined to run home and put that leftover whipped cream to good use.

Some men even claim they last longer if they have a little — but not too much — alcohol before having sex, an effect sometimes referred to as Lance Armstrong dick syndrome (yes, you can have it even with both testicles).

However, on a physiological level, alcohol use isn’t particularly good for your sexual performance. In fact, excessive alcohol has several negative effects on your sexual performance:

  • Alcohol is a depressant that slows your central nervous system, and nerves play a key role in your 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.

  • 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.

  • By causing you to become dehydrated, alcohol may trigger 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. This further reduces the flow of blood to your penis, so 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, which is why binge drinking is worse for more than just your long-term health, and 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 dinnertime. 

What Type of Alcohol is Most Likely to Cause Whiskey Dick?

While you may bemoan the havoc tequila wrecks on your game, 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. 

In other words, 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 — It's just that whiskey dick rolls off the tongue a little better than vodka dick. Or prosecco dick. Wait — how do we feel about gin dick? That one feels kinda catchy.

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What to Do if You Get Whiskey Dick 

The best way to deal with whiskey dick is to be upfront and let your partner know that although you'd love to have sex, that third dirty martini has done you dirty.

Since whiskey dick is 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 tomorrow morning’s sex plans. 

Alternatively, have fun with your partner without having penetrative sex. Remember, fellas — it's not always about you. There are plenty of ways to have intimate fun with your partner that don't involve your penis. 

Get creative!

How to Treat and Prevent Whiskey Dick

BREAKING NEWS: The most effective way to prevent whiskey dick is to... not drink so much.

Now, we're not talking complete abstention, but trying to avoid drinking to excess while you're on a hot date is definitely going to be the bold, winning strategy you’re hoping for. 

If you want to gauge what "excessive" looks like, the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) recommends up to two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women.

Even if you know what the limit is on paper, moderation can be tough sometimes. We get it. Your sex life and medical advice aren’t always going to overlap. But if alcohol seems to be the only culprit for your poor erectile function, you know what you need to do.

So with your alcohol intake in mind, here are some tips and techniques to help you drink responsibly and with intention:

  • 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 easier for you to stop drinking, even if everyone else is ordering 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 alcoholic drink. This not only lowers the total amount of alcohol you consume, but 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 these tips sound impossible to you or you feel like your drinking may be becoming problematic, it's totally okay — and encouraged — to call in the experts. 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.

How to Treat Alcohol-Induced Erectile Dysfunction 

Alcohol-induced erectile dysfunction will go away as your body metabolizes the alcohol and you sober up.

But if you have persistent ED that occurs with or without alcohol, you can get ED help online from a licensed healthcare provider.

If you often find it difficult to get an erection, even after drinking responsibly (or not at all), alcohol may not be the root of your ED issues.

Erectile dysfunction is a common issue that affects men of all ages. About 30 million men experience 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.

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, and the active ingredient in brand name 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

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Whiskey Dick and ED: Final Thoughts

Whiskey dick happens to the best of us. In fact, it’s hard to come up with the same story of some epic sex legend who didn’t have off days due to a little drinking here and there. 

But we’re not talking about occasional strikeouts — we’re talking about your batting average overall. 

If you’re trying to pump up your numbers, keep these tips in mind:

  • 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. 

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 or medication.

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