Alcohol is often considered a "social lubricant" used to break down conversational walls, reduce self-consciousness, and facilitate disclosure. Additionally, many individuals view alcohol as a way to heighten the sexual experience, not realizing the effects of alcohol and alcohol dependency can have on sexual health. In fact, consume a single drink or are struggling with addiction, alcohol still takes a toll on your sexual health with infectious disease, as well as your ability to have—or even enjoy—sexual intercourse.
If you are an alcoholic or know someone who is, it's important to be aware of the impact that alcohol dependency can have on sexual health. Here are some key points to keep in mind:
Alcohol lowers inhibitions, impairs cognition, and heightens risk-taking behaviors. In one study, half of the individuals reported having sex while intoxicated with someone they would not have had sex with otherwise. In one study, one-quarter of interviewees reported going home with someone that they just met. In fact, research also demonstrates that people are less likely to use protection when they are intoxicated, increasing the risk for both sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Even when protective measures are taken, lack of coordination and impaired judgment leads to birth control failure and improper—and ineffective—use of protection during sexual episodes. Alcohol can also be used against sexual partners by predators, with approximately half of the sexual assaults facilitated by alcohol.
Another behavioral effect of alcohol abuse is that it can lead to sexual dysfunction. This is because alcohol can interfere with the body's ability to produce testosterone and estrogen, which are important for sexual health. Additionally, alcohol can cause damage to the liver, which is responsible for producing sex hormones. As a result, people who abuse alcohol may experience problems such as erectile dysfunction, decreased libido, and infertility.
Alcohol dependency can also take a toll on sexual ability and enjoyment. In fact, even a small amount of alcohol measurably reduces sexual response. Alcohol's anesthetic properties reduce nerve response, making it difficult to achieve orgasm.
Additionally, alcohol dependency can incite erectile dysfunction in men, and lack of sexual arousal in women, leading to painful or unsuccessful sexual endeavors.
Alcohol-dependent individuals of both sexes can also experience shrinking of the sexual organs, and men can face fertility issues, as alcohol lowers the sperm count.
Furthermore, alcohol has a numbing effect on emotional response, leading to disconnected sexual encounters that prevent satisfying intimacy from taking place between partners.
People who are addicted to alcohol may also find it difficult to maintain healthy relationships due to the effects of alcohol on mood and behavior. This can also impact their sexual relationships. Partners of people with alcohol addiction may feel neglected or dismissed due to the addict's focus on drinking. They may also feel resentment or anger over the addict's behavior. These feelings can often lead to a decrease in sexual intimacy and communication.
If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol addiction, it is important to seek help. There are many treatment options available, including detoxification, behavioral therapy, and medication. With treatment, it is possible to regain control of your life and improve your sexual health.
For more information on alcohol addiction and its effects on sexual health, please visit the following websites:
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/effects-alcohol-use
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcoholism.