Is alcohol affecting your sex life?
Since time immemorial, alcohol has been blamed for many sexual misadventures of couples young and old. Whether some of those decisions were actually affected by the consumption of alcohol or was just attributed to the much-maligned beverage for justifying something that had to happen anyway, can be debated and argued. Although alcohol has been linked to sexual behaviour in humans for a long time indeed with many interpretations and outcomes having been recorded at various times, it is true that alcohol consumption does have proven credentials towards removing a part of the inhibition and shyness that are a precursor to getting physically close.
In this article we will discuss the much spoken about topic- ‘Is Alcohol affecting your sex life” and if Yes, then to which extent and whether really something is that can have you take wrong decisions towards sexual behaviour.
The Good effects of Alcohol on your Sex Life:
- Alcohol makes you more relaxed and Less inhibited: The consumption of alcohol is said to induce relaxation and make people less socially inhibited. Alcohol mimics the action of a neuro-inhibitor GABA (Gamma anti butyric acid) inside the nervous system and also slows down the release of the excitatory neurotransmitter, Glutamate. This affects the experience of reality, which may seem slower and you might feel more relaxed since the mind is not deciphering information as fast as it did before the consumption of alcohol. Whereas this effect can be somewhat beneficial in a social setting where people feel less shy in approaching others for a conversation, this same response can be hazardous while attempting tasks that require the presence of mind and quick decision making, such as driving or operating machinery. Consumption of limited amounts of alcoholic beverages shuts down some of the processes of the brain, thereby making you more reciprocative and less anxious. These feelings can be said to have a constructive effect on the sexual disposition of humans and may help them in succeeding in finding sexual partners through the reduction of inhibition and taking chances.
It is known that the antioxidants found in some wines and other alcoholic beverages can have the effect of making you feel more aroused because of the increased blood flow to the genitals. Taken in moderation, alcohol can make you feel warm and nice, especially around the sexual organs. Alcohol can also help in dilation of the various blood vessels which make them carry more blood to the sexual body parts such as the penis in man and the clitoris, labia and vagina in women that can make them feel more engorged and lubricated.
Mentally: If the brain were your largest sexual organ, moderate quantities of alcohol does make you feel more aroused mentally. Basically, Alcohol slows down the thought process and cognition by depressing the cerebral cortex, which in many ways is the nerve centre of memory, perception, attention, thought, language etc. Sexual desire and arousal actually comes from a few diverse parts of the brain which include brain parts such as the amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus and mainly the orbitofrontal cortex, also known as OFC. The intrinsic sexual impulses are controlled by the amygdala and pituitary etc and is not affected much by the consumption of alcohol, but the OFC which facilitates decision making and preference of sexual partner is somehow depressed by the consumption of alcohol and results in the simplification of the thinking process that aids faster decision making. Alcohol also mimics certain neuromodulators such as acetylcholine, serotonin, GABA etc that makes you feel happy, relaxed and aroused. The combination of all these factors will eventually create conditions that are favourable for indulging in the sexual act.
Basically, the above two are the only two somewhat positive points of alcohol consumption in as much as its effect on your having a positive impact on your sexual life. The ill effects of alcohol consumption towards reproductive and sexual health are much better documented and proven. Let us discuss some of the most commonly known ill effects of Alcohol consumption on the sexual drive, performance and desire of individuals:
- Alcohol dehydrates the body: Alcohol is a known diuretic. It reduces the amount of ADH – Ant diuretic hormone that the body makes and leads it to dehydration. Each shot of alcohol is said to force the kidneys to generate an extra 120 ml of urine apart from the 60-80 ml that the kidneys make anyway. While dehydrating the body, alcohol decreases the blood volume at the same time increasing the hormone angiotensin, that is the hormone responsible for the incidence of lack of sexual desire. Since the body is not optimally hydrated, many biological functions of the body are compromised including the sexual desire and erection.
- Alcohol may cause erectile dysfunction: It is now a well-known fact that whereas alcohol does have some effects on human beings where they feel less shy and more uninhibited, it certainly does not qualify to be an aphrodisiac. On the contrary, the consumption of alcohol, especially in high quantities can severely impact the ability to achieve sexual desire, erection and orgasm. According to Mayo clinic, excessive drinking is one of the most common causes of erectile dysfunction in men. With the increased alcoholic content in the blood, the brain’s ability to sense sexual stimulation decreases. Since alcohol is also a depressant, it directly affects the sexual desire by interfering with the parts of the nervous system that are responsible for arousal and circulation of blood to the various organs of the body. With respect to the blood flow movement in and out of the penis, the alcohol in the blood stream causes the blood vessels to expand and disrupt the normal, synchronised blood flow in the sexual organs that causes them to feel the sexual desire and arousal.
- Alcohol can cause misjudgement towards safe sex: It is easy to imagine that under influence of alcohol and a little bit of over-enthusiasm that might be alcohol induced, it is easy for young couples to misjudge the rational control and perspective and take wrong decisions towards getting close. Many times under the influence of too much alcohol in the bloodstream, couples tend to not take enough precautions towards the choice of partner as well as towards employing planned birth control measures. Both of the above factors can be severely detrimental to the people engaged in the sexual act since on one hand it increases the chances of sexually transmitted diseases due to unverified partners and can also increase the chances of unwanted pregnancies, which can be quite traumatic physically and emotionally. Also, due to the decrease in physical sensation and lack of quick physiological response, it becomes harder for the couple to realise if the condom has slipped off during the lovemaking or if it has broken. At the same time, the consumption of high amounts of alcohol can also inhibit the judgement of both parties if the other is fully consensual about the sexual relationship to go forward. There have been many cases where the couples expressly regret entering into a hurried sexual intercourse, not being able to judge the complexities at the time of intercourse due to blurry decision making.
- Alcohol is one of the main causes of Premature Ejaculation: Whereas it is usually believed that the numbness of the sexual organs achieved due to the consumption of alcohol can cause one to continue in the sexual union for longer and reaching late climax, the fact is that it is not completely true. Studies have shown that men who are dependent on alcohol have 60 to 70 percent higher chances of suffering from the sexual problem, including premature ejaculation. Whereas alcohol does have limited benefits towards providing relaxation and a slightly more elevated state of mind, it is a fact that too much alcohol consumption causes nervousness, uneasiness and an overall feeling of sickness/nausea which can never be a good thing. Prolonged substance abuse including alcohol can cause various other sexual problems including the inability to orgasm and erectile dysfunction in men and dryness of the vagina and lethargy in women.
- Alcohol consumption can cause long term Sexual problems: Whereas alcohol is one of the main reasons people make wrong decisions and indulge in sexual activities they wouldn’t have otherwise, alcohol consumption in high amounts will most definitely have long term effects on the sexual and the mental well-being of a person, and his/ her relationship with the spouse. The increase of blood sugar due to alcohol consumption which can cause diabetes and heart disease which reduces the body’s capacity to indulge in vigorous physical acts such as sexual intercourse in the most negative way possible. Excessive drinking also increases the stress hormone cortisol and lowers the testosterone, the hormone responsible for sexual desire. Taken together, this can cause severe hampering of the sexual libido and performance. Apart from the physical harm, long term alcoholism can also severely impact the mental confidence of a person, making him/her reclusive and difficult to approach for a physical relationship. The alcoholics can also fall into depression or a state of physical and social despair.
- Alcohol causes a serious loss of libido: Whereas alcohol has always been associated with a certain amount of masculinity and ‘machoism’ attached with it, the fact is that long term or excessive consumption of alcohol is one of the most effective ways in which people, especially men can experience a loss of desire to indulge in sexual intercourse. Alcohol by virtue of being a natural depressant causes sexual indifference and loss of desire. Consumption of alcohol in large quantities is also known to cause severe, often irreparable damage to the functioning of the liver. A damaged liver can severely hamper the body’s ability to regulate hormone distribution, including the hormones responsible for sexual desire. Along with intoxication, that alone can cause the loss of libido, alcohol also causes fatigue and dehydration which are another two reasons that a person can experience lowered sexual desire. Lowered libido can play an extremely detrimental effect on a person’s self-confidence, his/her relationships with others as well as their own mental health.
It can, therefore, be said with some degree of certainty that the effect of consumption of alcohol on the sex life of a person is more negative than positive. More alcoholics suffer from severe sexual problems, along with possibly other health problems as a result of alcohol consumption. The most common problem, that of erectile dysfunction in men and dryness of vagina in women has been found to be severely affected by the consumption of alcohol. Other alcohol-induced health conditions such as depression, anxiety, hypertension and diabetes can all affect the man’s or the women’s ability to participate in a fulfilling and healthy sexual life. Alcohol is a known depressant and causes loss of libido and hampers the ability of the penis to maintain an erection. Apart from the obvious physiological ill effects of alcohol consumption, the social and psychological effects must also be considered carefully. Whereas the high consumption of alcohol makes people less sociable and are less liked socially, hence impacting their chances to find a suitable sexual partner, the effects of alcohol on the mental state and health are also quite significant. Since alcohol is a habit-forming substance i.e. an addictive substance, it is severely detrimental to the self-confidence of the person who is addicted to alcohol, at the same time can encourage a person to indulge in anti-social or criminal behaviour, or to behave in a sexually violent way, that can be injurious for both partners.
Overall, it can be safely said that alcohol does affect the sex life, and in more negative ways than positive. Whereas if had in moderation, alcohol can make you relaxed and a bit less inhibitive, long term effect of alcohol consumption or dependence can wreak havoc on your entire health, including the sexual health.