As St. Patty’s Day approaches, men who are hoping to experience some "luck of the Irish" in the bedroom on the evening would do well to get educated about the relationship between alcohol consumption and erectile dysfunction, both short- and long-term. One night of heavy drinking may affect a man’s ability to perform for a day, while a long-established drinking habit can have more permanent consequences to sexual and penile health. The relationship between alcohol and performance function is complex, as alcohol affects many different bodily systems that, in turn, impact erectile ability. Getting to know these more intimately may help a man make better decisions on this and other occasions.

Vascular System Effects

Alcohol encourages blood vessels in the body to open wide. At first glance, this may appear to promote better erectile function, since erections occur when a rush of blood fills the penis. However, those vessels need to be able to hold blood inside the penis as well. Their ability to do so when consuming large quantities of alcohol is inhibited, meaning erections may be difficult to achieve or maintain.

Nervous System Effects

Alcohol is a depressant - it depresses certain systems in the body, including the sensitivity of nerve endings. Some people drink to self-medicate when in pain, and pain isn’t the only type of sensation alcohol can reduce. Since pleasurable sensations are important for maintaining an erection, high consumption of alcohol can limit pleasure and, therefore, the duration of an erection.

Endocrine System Effects

The functioning of the endocrine system, which produces hormones, is also affected by heavy alcohol intake. Alcohol interferes with the testes’ ability to produce testosterone. This hormone is necessary for maintaining a healthy sex drive along with the ability to become erect.

Circulatory System Effects

When a man drinks heavily, he is prone to becoming dehydrated. Dehydration lowers blood volume, meaning that less blood is available to engorge the penis.

Psychological Effects

Chronic alcohol abusers are prone to depression. Depression is known to have a negative impact on libido and, therefore, erectile health.

How Much is Too Much?

There is no ironclad number of drinks a person can have without inhibiting sexual function, as the number may vary from person to person or situation to situation. For many, having one or two drinks can reduce anxiety and make a sexual encounter more enjoyable. But more than two or three drinks may be too much for many, leading to tiredness and the effects discussed above, making intercourse difficult (if not impossible).

Men with chronic alcohol abuse issues may want to consider seeking treatment. There are many different methods out there, not limited to the abstinence-only organization Alcoholics Anonymous. Other methods include cognitive behavioral therapy and Harm Reduction. The latter approach encourages individuals to set their own goals, track and pace their progress and find support in a community of others working to reduce the harm caused by their drinking. This is a good approach for people who don’t want to quit altogether but want to get a better handle on their habit in a supportive, nonjudgmental environment.

A Four-Leaf Clover for the Penis

Along with moderating his alcohol intake this St. Patty’s Day, a man can consider giving his penis a little gift. Using a penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) can help soften and moisturize dried skin, something many men deal with particularly during the cold months. Natural hydrators like Shea butter and vitamin E are good to seek out in a crème. In addition, a quality crème will contain acetyl L-carnitine, a neuroprotective ingredient that works to keep penile nerves sensitive and responsive, helping to maximize a man’s pleasure.