Daily Health

Everything You Need to Know About Alcohol and Viagra

Viagra is a well-known drug that can help treat erectile dysfunction. However, since alcohol is frequently consumed by folks who are getting in the mood, it’s a good idea to understand how Viagra and alcohol interact.




Erectile dysfunction is a common problem that can affect men at any age. While it occurs more frequently among older men, a 2016 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that roughly one in four younger men under the age of 40 experience erectile dysfunction as well. The fact that so many men are impacted by ED has made Viagra a household name.

In this article, we’ll look at how alcohol and Viagra impact erectile dysfunction and how they interact with one another. We’ll also go over some of the most common side effects of Viagra so that you can know what to look out for if you’ll be taking Viagra on your next date night. 

What is erectile dysfunction? 

Erectile dysfunction refers to the inability to get or maintain an erection firm enough to allow for satisfactory sexual activity for at least three months. 

As it can be caused by a wide range of physical and psychological factors, if you’re dealing with persistent ED, it’s best to seek medical advice from your doctor. 

How Viagra works for erectile dysfunction

The best way to understand how Viagra works on the symptoms of erectile dysfunction is to think about what an erection is, exactly. 

When you become aroused, your body receives a signal from the brain to increase the heart rate and blood flow. This increased flow of blood fills chambers in the penis with blood, making it hard and erect. 

Erectile dysfunction can occur when chambers in the penis don’t fill with blood sufficiently for it to remain erect. An enzyme involved in the process of blood flow is protein phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5), which impacts smooth muscle contraction and relaxation.

Viagra is in a class of drugs called PDE5 inhibitors. By inhibiting the function of the PDE5 enzyme, blood vessels become more relaxed, making it easier for blood to flow to the penis. This is why Viagra doesn’t cause erections, but rather makes it easier to get and maintain an erection in the presence of sexual stimulation. Other drugs for erectile dysfunction, like Cialis, also function as PDE5 inhibitors.

Sildenafil and erectile dysfunction

If you’re prescribed sildenafil, that's just the generic name for the active drug ingredient in Viagra. Any drug labelled sildenafil has the same mechanism for treating erectile dysfunction as Viagra, and the same caution should be taken when consuming alcohol in conjunction with sildenafil.

Alcohol and erectile dysfunction

Sharing a bottle of wine or a couple of cocktails is often associated with getting in the mood and creating a romantic atmosphere before sex. 

A small amount of alcohol can be relaxing, and one Harvard study even found a link between dietary flavonoid intake, like the kind found in small quantities of red wine, and reduced incidence of ED. Larger quantities, however, can have a negative effect on your normal sexual functioning. 

You can certainly still enjoy alcohol in moderation on Viagra, but it’s worth noting that alcohol does have a relationship with erectile dysfunction. 

Research suggests a link between binge drinking alcohol and some form of sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction, low sexual desire, and premature ejaculation. 

One meta-analysis of 24 studies indicates that this link doesn’t hold for low or moderate levels of alcohol, so staying within your personal limits and drinking plenty of water in between alcoholic beverages can help you avoid consuming enough alcohol to impact your sexual functions. 

Viagra and drinking alcohol: is it safe? 

If you enjoy having a drink on nights that you plan to use Viagra, the good news is you can keep doing so.

Viagra doesn’t come with an indication not to drink alcohol, but since alcohol itself can be responsible for symptoms of ED, it can defeat the purpose of taking Viagra or other ED drugs like Cialis.

Everyone’s body processes alcohol differently, and what is a moderate quantity for one person may be way too much for someone else. You know your own alcohol limits better than anyone else, and staying within those limits regularly can reduce instances of erectile dysfunction. 

According to the Government of Canada’s low-risk alcohol consumption guidelines, men should consume no more than 15 standard drinks in a week with no more than three on most days. A 5 oz glass of wine, 1.5 oz serving of distilled alcohol, or 12 oz of beer or cider each count as one drink. 

If you’re experiencing erectile dysfunction, keeping your alcohol consumption within these limits should allow you to enjoy alcohol safely, while still being able to get and maintain an erection when using Viagra. However, if staying within these limits still results in erectile dysfunction, try scaling back your alcohol consumption further. 

Remember, alcohol abuse is a common cause of ED, so if you find yourself needing to use Viagra, high levels of alcohol consumption could be counterproductive. 

Different types of alcohol and Viagra

There isn’t strong data to suggest much of a difference in terms of how different types of alcohol impact your experience when taking Viagra, but if you enjoy cocktails that have grapefruit juice in the mix, you should avoid those when you’re planning to take Viagra. 

Compounds in grapefruit juice increase the bioavailability of the active ingredient in Viagra, which can make both the intended effects and any side effects of Viagra last longer than the typical duration of the drug’s effects. This can be uncomfortable, so it’s best to stay away from cocktails containing grapefruit such as Palomas or Greyhounds. 

Side effects of Viagra

While Viagra is generally safe, it can occasionally be accompanied by unwanted side effects. These include and aren’t limited to:

  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Flushing in the face
  • Upset stomach
  • Blurred vision
  • Changes in vision colour
  • A runny or stuffy nose or sore throat
  • Muscle or back pain

Less common side effects of Viagra include:

  • Priapism — a prolonged erection that lasts more than four hours
  • Heart attack, stroke, cerebrovascular hemorrhage, palpitations, and arrhythmias
  • Vision loss
  • Hearing loss or a ringing in the ears
  • Seizures
  • Swelling and pain in the arms and legs

You should stop using Viagra and seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Priapism — a prolonged erection that lasts more than four hours
  • Sudden vision change or loss 
  • Sudden hearing loss or ringing in the ears
  • An allergic reaction like lip or face swelling, wheezing or trouble breathing, hives.
  • Chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, or nausea during sex

If you experience any headaches or mild aches and pains, over-the-counter pain relief medications may be enough for you. However, if the symptoms are recurring or strong, or if you experience any other symptoms, discuss them with your doctor. They may provide prescription pain relief or prescribe a lower dose of Viagra.

If you already enjoy drinking alcohol occasionally, you don’t have to stop just because you’ve started taking viagra. Just be mindful of the amount that you drink, especially on days when you’re planning to take Viagra. Otherwise, go ahead and enjoy that drink along with the benefits of Viagra. 


Medically reviewed by
Dr. Sarah Peltz
Urologist, MD, FRCSC
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.

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