With all the worries that come with addiction struggles, one commonly seems to come up in treatment sessions, and it can be challenging to discuss openly: the role of alcohol and drugs in sexual drive and performance. Not only can it weigh on a patient’s mind, but it’s the foundation in understanding and accepting our behaviors and sexual responsibilities, in past and future.
The question isn’t: Can I get drunk and still perform? Or Can I get high and still have an erection? While valid questions we will discuss, the correlation between addiction and sex goes deeper.
The effects of alcohol and drugs on sexual performance are detrimental in more ways than just poor choice of partners and poor decision making overall. Alcohol and drug abuse can lead to physical problems in the bedroom, including erectile dysfunction, lower libido, and diminish the emotional bond between you and your partner.
Drug abuse comes with many myths and misconceptions, and one of those is that certain drugs can enhance sex or act as aphrodisiacs. In reality, studies suggest that illicit drugs harm the male sex drive, leading to a host of other problems related to sexual performance. The physical issues from drug abuse commonly co-occur with psychological problems as well.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reported that 38.6 percent of abusers reported having a lowered sex drive associated with drug abuse. This statistic was seen more frequently among heroin users. The average age of men in the study was around 33 years. Prescription drug abuse is also associated with antidepressants, increasing serotonin but decreasing libido.
A lack of sexual desire characterizes low libido or decreased sex drive. Even if sex is something you previously enjoyed, drug abuse can affect your body in such a way that you no longer feel interested in or motivated for sex. This can lead to other self-esteem, relationships, and mental health problems for many men.
Drug use, both illegal drugs, and misuse of prescription medication, can compromise your sexual ability and may even do permanent damage. According to Healthline, here are some ways that commonly abused drugs affect our bodies, leading to ED:
- Amphetamines can cause blood vessels to narrow, preventing enough blood from reaching the penis
- Barbiturates may decrease interest in sex
- Nicotine can decrease sexual desire
- Cocaine can cause blood vessels to narrow, preventing enough blood from reaching the penis.
- Marijuana may increase sexual desire but prevent smooth muscle in your penis from relaxing to let enough blood flow in
- Heroin can decrease levels of testosterone and reduce your interest in sex.
- It isn’t just drugs that contribute to ED. Alcohol can cause symptoms, as its effects aren’t isolated, meaning it affects all the body parts, including the components needed to create an erection. Alcohol can lower hormone levels, including testosterone, and damage the testes.
The Ripple Effect of a Low Sex Drive
A low sex drive is sometimes linked to anxiety. Men who struggle with sexual function due to drug abuse may feel anxious about their sexual performance, such as an inability to muster enthusiasm for sex. Sexual anxiety may come with stress, worry, tightness in the chest, or even obsessive thinking. These behaviors can have a domino effect on other aspects of your life, and you may start to feel increased anxiety about your work or family life, too.
Some men find themselves experiencing depression due to low libido. You may find yourself withdrawing from your partner, friends, family, or colleagues. Self-confidence can plummet because you’re no longer able to perform sexually the way you once did. Depression is a severe disorder and is often associated with the tendency to self-medicate with substances, creating a vicious cycle of depression and drug and alcohol abuse.
And beyond the physical ability to perform while high or intoxicated is a psychological and emotional sexual wellness that develops over our lifetime. It conditions how we see sex, sexual partners, and ultimately, how we judge ourselves for our choices. Addiction can intensify our bad decisions and behaviors that lead to promiscuity, poor decisions of partner(s), blacking out and forgetting if sex was practiced safely (or at all), and many times, lowers our guards in putting ourselves in dangerous situations and keeping the ability to fight back from sexual assault.
There is no argument that being high or drunk lowers one’s inhibitions when choosing sexual partners, behaviors, and frequency. A common argument for not getting clean and sober is the notion that sexual freedom will disappear. But this “freedom” can mean loss of inhibition that leads to clouded judgment, no accountability, and more often than not, to sexual disease transmission, unplanned pregnancy, diminished self-worth, and even risk to social and professional standing.
Assuming one has taken hold of their addiction, once the mind begins to clear and the connection is made between being an addict and sexual choices, it is often an eye-opening experience. Alcohol or drugs may have given a sense of invincibility, and for some, confidence. For some with social anxieties or for whom navigating the challenges of sexual relationships was difficult, being intoxicated or high was a fast-track to connecting with others and lowering anxiety and inhibitions. But as we now know, these highs are only temporary, and the ramifications of an untethered lifestyle are complicated and life-long.
Although these potential side effects may sound frightening, they can be helped with treatment. Recovery from drug abuse is possible, and there are trained professionals who can help you achieve your goals of sobriety and health. Without treatment, symptoms of a low sex drive can worsen. There is no shame in seeking treatment for drug abuse; on the contrary, it is a sign that you value yourself – and your health. Moreover, seeking mental health treatment for issues with sex and self-worth or sexual matters from your past that continue to affect you is a critical step in your overall addiction journey.
If you or someone you love is suffering from the effects of alcohol abuse, substance addiction, or any other type of addiction, please call us today. Our addiction treatment counselors can help you deal with the physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. A substance abuse treatment program is effective safe and has helped many men reclaim their lives. Destination Hope is a full-service drug, alcohol, and dual diagnosis treatment facility in Florida for those suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues.