We’ve all heard the phrase “sex, drugs and rock and roll,” and, frankly, it’s incredibly misleading, given what drug addiction does to your sex life. In addition to lowering your inhibitions and causing you to engage in more risky sexual behavior, drugs and alcohol affect intimacy in various negative and potentially critical ways. For all of the pop-culture depictions of people getting obliterated and hopping into bed (or couch, or floor or partially rotted out 1985 Pontiac Trans Am) with anyone they see, there’s little discussion of what can, and often does, happen when the lights go out. Chronic abuse of illicit drugs and alcohol can affect your sex life and relationships in ways you may not realize and definitely don’t want to find out.
Let’s Start with A Drink: How Does Alcohol Affect Sex Drive, Performance and Longevity?
When you take someone home from the bar or hook up at a party after you’ve both had a few, don’t be surprised if that’s where it ends. While alcohol may increase testosterone levels in both men and women to boost sexual arousal, it can actually interfere with genital response and inhibit your ability to perform. The impact of alcohol abuse on sex life generally only worsens over time, leading to chronic issues like erectile and orgasm dysfunction, decreased blood flow to the penis in males and vaginal dryness in women. Data suggests that erectile dysfunction is common in alcoholic males.
The Party (is Over) Drug: Effects of Cocaine on Your Sex Life
Cocaine is, perhaps, the illicit drug most associated with partying. It brings to mind powdery, anything-goes, orgy-like settings where inhibitions are left outside at the door, and the adrenaline is through the roof. There’s no question that cocaine and other stimulant drugs increase short-term sex drive, but performance and longevity are another story. Like alcohol, long-term abusers of cocaine develop sexual dysfunction issues, including inability to achieve or sustain an erection and vaginal dryness. Additionally, prolonged cocaine abuse can lead to reduced sperm count in men and higher infertility rates in women.
How Do Opioids Affect Your Sex Life?
Abuse of opioids can affect your sex life in many damaging ways. Long-term use of opioids can affect sex hormones in the brain by releasing the gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) in excess. One study indicated that long-term opioid users were nearly 70 percent more likely than non-users to experience dissatisfaction with their sex life and more than twice as likely to experience low or no desire. Short-term opioid users reported low desire and sexual dissatisfaction at a rate of 82 and 35 percent, respectively. Prescription opioids like Vicodin® and OxyContin® decrease testosterone, a primary driver of sexual desire in men and women.
As heroin and fentanyl share many of the same molecular properties as prescription opioids, the effects on sexual performance are often largely the same, depending upon your specific use history.
Effects of Meth on Sex Life and Sexual Health
Like cocaine and other stimulant drugs, meth may increase sexual desire in the short term but can have a drastic negative impact on sexual function and health as use persists. Prolonged and untreated meth abuse is linked to lower libido, decreased testosterone, inability to orgasm, erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness and a host of other sexual health issues. It’s important to realize that the longer drug or alcohol abuse persists, the harder it may be to overcome these symptoms, creating a vicious cycle of substance abuse and sexual dysfunction, in addition to other physical and psychological health issues. It’s important to integrate a focus on sexual health into treatment.
The Effects of Drugs and Alcohol on Relationships and Intimacy
Few things kill the mood quicker than not being able to trust, respect or be comfortable with your significant other. Relationships in which one person uses and the other is sober are fraught with communication, trust, boundary and respect issues that can affect sexual intimacy and desire. Simply put, if you’ve been lying through your teeth to your partner about your drug use or come home out of your mind on coke or meth, you can’t expect them to be ready to perform sexually. Over time these issues become more and more difficult to bounce back from and permanently derail your relationship. Data from the American Society of Addiction Medicine indicates that substance abuse is present in 40-60 percent of all incidents of intimate partner violence (IPV).
Sexual Health Risks of Alcohol and Drug Addiction
Just because alcohol and some illicit drugs can, at first, increase sexual desire, that’s not always a good thing. Engaging in sexual activity when you’re drunk or high can lead to various health risks, including but not limited to sexually transmitted diseases, sexual violence and assault, unwanted pregnancy and more. The risk of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS is particularly high among homosexual males, but these factors disproportionately affect the LGBTQ+ population as a whole. Recovery Unplugged offers compassionate and effective treatment that specifically addresses the unique clinical and behavioral health needs of the LGBTQ+ community.
Overcoming Sexual Function Issues in Addiction Treatment
Unfortunately, alcohol and drugs can affect sex life even after treatment and in long-term recovery. There are, however, certain measures men and women can take to increase their sexual desire and satisfaction in sobriety, including medications and ongoing sex therapy either by yourself or with your partner. In both men and women, it’s common for sexual identity to play a direct role in substance abuse, which is why these issues need to be addressed simultaneously in treatment.
The first step to overcoming the sexual effects of drugs and alcohol is by getting treatment for your substance use disorder. Recovery Unplugged is ready to help you or your loved one reclaim your life from drugs and alcohol with comprehensive care, including medical detox and withdrawal management, as well as comprehensive behavioral rehab. Our therapists can help you unravel the complex relationships between your sexual behavior and drug and alcohol abuse. We offer multiple locations and accept most major insurances. Contact us today to start your treatment now.