How Drug Use Affects ED

If you’re having problems getting or maintaining an erection it might surprise you to learn you could benefit by examining your personal drug use – whether  legal or illegal, because drug use can cause erectile dysfunction.

Even legal drug use, in particular:

  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • The side effects of prescription medicines

Can all contribute to ED.
Add to that the common use of illegal recreational drugs like:

  • Amphetamines and Party pills
  • Heroin and Opiates
  • Barbiturates
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana

And many men find their stamina and sexual health seriously affected and erections difficult to achieve or sustain because of drug use.

While the complications of drug addiction are well known, erectile dysfunction as a side effect of drug use is usually not mentioned. However drugs affect hormones, nerves and blood flow, increasing the risk of erectile dysfunction and sometime resulting in permanent ED.

Alcohol and Erectile Dysfunction

Alcohol is very commonly used to help relax inhibitions and encourage conviviality, and it’s been long recognised that while it gets you in the mood it often hinders completion. For most Westerners alcohol is the commonly used recreational drug; for many people it’s an integral part of their social life. So its good news to hear that Australian research shows moderate drinking – one or two drinks a day for men – may actually improve erectile function. The research showed moderate drinkers had 30 per cent less erectile dysfunction than non drinkers.

That finding is supported by other international studies which indicate moderate drinking may improve cardio vascular health - what has been referred to as the French Paradox because French men have lower heart attack rates even though they eat relatively high levels of animal fats, it is thought because they also drink red wine.

ED From Alcohol Abuse

However excessive alcohol use and alcohol abuse can contribute to erectile dysfunction by causing liver damage, high blood pressure and an increased risk of some cancers, as well as changing hormonal balance by reducing testosterone and increasing estrogen.

Sexual dysfunction – low sex drive, premature ejaculation as well as erection problems are common with excessive alcohol consumption, with the amount of alcohol the most accurate predictor of sexual dysfunction.

Studies vary but in general 60 to 70 per cent of very heavy alcohol users report erectile problems, with the risk proportionate to the amounts consumed.

How Alcohol Affects Penile Blood Flow

Apart from long term damage to the body systems, the blood flow needed for erections is affected by heavy alcohol use.

During an erection, the penis fills with blood then the vessels close, preventing backflow, so that the penis remains erect.

In the short term, overconsumption of alcohol causes the blood vessels in the penis to expand, allowing for more blood flow, but prevents those vessels from closing. As a result, the penis may become erect but not remain so, as there is nothing to prevent backflow. 

That’s how the term “brewer’s droop” came into use. (Herbalists say this is because the hops in beer make it very high in plant estrogens - excellent for menopausal women but not so good for middle aged men.)

How Nicotine Drug Use Affects ED

Australian research shows men who smoke a pack a day are 40 per cent more likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction than non-smokers. And even if you smoke less a day, you’re still not off the hook.

The tobacco drug nicotine affects blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the penis as well as overall cardio-vascular damage.

(Interestingly new research also shows nicotine is a “gateway drug” making the brain more susceptible to other illicit drugs like cocaine and marijuana.)

Side Effects of Prescription Drugs

Over 200 prescription drugs may cause erectile dysfunction, including well known over-the- counter joint and pain relief pills, (NSAIDs) anti-depressants,( SSRI’s) sleeping tablets, anti-histamine pills, and stomach acid treatments (GERD).

If you have noticed erectile problems and are using any of these common drugs, it is worth checking, talking with your doctor, or changing brands

Marijuana Drug Use & ED

Erectile dysfunction is twice as common in marijuana drug users as non-users. Research seems to indicate the bigger the drug dose, the more likely a man is to be affected by erectile dysfunction, with small amounts not making much difference, but heavier use leading to fewer erections.

Other Illegal Drugs & ED

Most long term drug users and addicts report decreased sex drive.  Drug abuse lowers testosterone levels, causes circulatory and nerve damage that often results in erectile dysfunction.

About half of heroin addicts on methadone treatment report erectile dysfunction, with baseline testosterone levels 43 per cent below normal. An Australian study amongst Sydney men on methadone drug therapy showed more than half had erectile dysfunction and also showed higher prevalence of sexual dysfunction (low sex drive and other sexual problems).

The drugs in amphetamines do the same as the opiates:  accelerating the aging of the arterial and vascular walls with plaques and causing circulatory damage, and use of the drug cocaine is also associated with blood clots and impaired ejaculation.