All articles

Cialis and alcohol: What you need to know

Medical review by
Dr. Kelly Anderson
Family Physician, MD, CCFP(EM)
View full bio

There’s a reason the British coined the term Brewers Droop (really, look it up).

Research suggests that drinking large amounts of alcohol over an extended period of time can make erectile dysfunction more likely.

Even in the short term, there is data suggesting a night of heavy drinking has the potential to impact performance.

So what does that mean if you’re taking Cialis and plan having a drink? Is taking Cialis and drinking alcohol completely out of the question?

And while we’re on the subject, what about other side effects of combining alcohol and Cialis?

The short answer is that drinking a small amount of alcohol while taking Cialis may not reduce the effects of the drug. But if you’re planning on a heavy night of drinking, you increase the likelihood of experiencing side effects associated with Cialis.

But to go into more detail, we need to look a little more closely at how Cialis works, as well as how alcohol impacts your ability to get an erection.

What is Cialis?

Cialis is the brand name for a drug called Tadalafil that, like other ED medications, is a PDE5 inhibitor.

What does that mean? Put as simply as we can, PDE5 inhibitors are medications that improve blood flow to certain tissues, including the penis. (However, initially, they were designed to treat cardiovascular conditions).

Cialis comes in a range of doses: 10mg, the recommended starting dosage. 20mg, the highest available dose, and a daily 2.5 mg or 5mg dosage. The daily form of Cialis is designed for those with ED who are looking to have more spontaneous sex without the medication planning.

How does Cialis work?

Cialis works by increasing blood flow to the tissue of your penis. To get a little technical, PDE5 inhibitors block something called cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5, or PDE5 for short. This is an enzyme that’s responsible for regulating the flow of blood to the penis (and other areas of the body, too)

By inhibiting the PDE5 enzyme, Cialis and other ED medications can increase blood flow to the penis, helping you get and keep an erection when you are sexually aroused. 

This last point is key.  You do still need to be sexually aroused for Cialis, and other PDE5 inhibitors to do their thing. Usually, Cialis will start to work within 30 to 60 minutes, so take it at least a half hour before you plan to have sex.

Is it effective? Research suggests that In many cases Cialis can be effective. In one study looking at Tadalafil 10 mg and 20 mg, 71% and 84% reported improved erection compared 33% in the group that received a placebo.

How does alcohol affect your ability to get an erection?

So does drinking alcohol make it harder to get an erection? Shakespeare thought so, proclaiming that alcohol “provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.”

The Bard was no urologist, of course, but he may have been on to something.  

In general alcohol can increase ‘subjective arousal’ (feeling more sexually aroused) but has the potential to limit ‘physiological arousal’ (ie getting an erection). 

Your ability to get an erection is influenced by a combination of blood flow, nerve and psychological factors. The precise relationship between each of these factors and alcohol isn’t established conclusively.

Just how alcohol has this potential impact on erections is the tricky part, but it is thought to be a result of alcohol depressing your central nervous system.

Alcohol and Erectile Dysfunction in the Long Term

The potential for alcohol to negatively impact your ability to get an erection isn’t only a short term thing. Studies suggest that sustained heavy drinking over longer periods of times, is associated with a higher likelihood of experiencing ED. 

One study found men who have more than three glasses of wine per day were more likely to experience ED.  Erectile dysfunction is also common among those with alcohol dependence.

Cialis and Alcohol

So what does this mean for anyone experiencing ED?

According to the manufacturer, drinking excessive alcohol (they define it as 5 glasses of wine or 5 shots of whiskey) can increase your chances of getting a headache or getting dizzy, your heart rate increasing, or lowering your blood pressure.

If you’re planning on having a single beer or glass of wine you may not experience a difference in effectiveness. However, it is still sensible to minimize alcohol consumption when taking Cialis. 

Stay vigilant for Cialis side effects

Regardless of whether you have had a drink or not. Make sure you know the potential side effects of Cialis and are alert to them.

Common Cialis side effects include flushing, lightheadedness, headache, runny nose, or nausea.

Side effects usually occur while the medication is active. However, it’s also possible for some effects (particularly headaches and heartburn/indigestion) to occur as the drugs are becoming less active in your body.

If you develop an erection that lasts longer than 3 hours please go to the emergency department - this is a rare but dangerous side effect called priapism.

There have been exceedingly rare reports of non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy - a condition that impacts sight - although most experts do not believe this to be related to ED medications.

It is recommended that you see a doctor in person for this issue, for a full physical exam and blood work to determine if there is an underlying cause like diabetes, vascular disease or low testosterone

Other times you shouldn’t take Cialis

Apart from heavy alcohol when else should you not take Cialis? There are several other scenarios:

  • You are taking any other medication for erectile dysfunction
  • You have previously experienced an allergic reaction to Tadalafil (Cialis) or any other medicines in the past
  • You are taking medicines called nitrates for chest pain
  • You are currently taking take any guanylate cyclase stimulators, like riociguat (adempas)
  • You are using drugs such as amyl nitrate or amyl nitrite, and butyl nitrate, also known as poppers. 
  • You have a serious liver or heart problem
  • You have low blood pressure or a condition that may lower blood pressure like aortic stenosis or hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy
  • You have recently had a heart attack or stroke

Disclaimer

The views expressed here are those of the author and, as with the rest of the content on Active Ingredients, are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider.

All articles
Does Cialis make you bigger? What the science says
Read