Does Drug Use Cause ED (Erectile Dysfunction)?

a hand holding several drugs

Does Drug Use Cause Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?

Experts agree that as men get older, the likelihood of developing erectile dysfunction increases significantly. However, erectile dysfunction (ED) can occur from a variety of causes, including prescription, recreational, and illicit drug use [1].

Truth is, an estimated 25% of erectile dysfunction cases are the result of drug use, the most common including blood pressure medication, antidepressants, antiulcer drugs, tranquilizers, and diuretics [2]

In other words, the prolonged usage of prescription drugs can result in complications and ED symptoms. This increases with age due to the potential onslaught of ailments such as hypertension, diabetes, vascular disorders, etc. 

Likewise, although recreational or illicit drug use has often been portrayed as an aphrodisiac, it adversely affects erectile function and can lead to ED, decreased sexual desire, and delayed ejaculation [3]Even if you haven’t taken drugs in years, previous periods of prolonged usage can result in ED.

Healthy erectile function requires circulation to the penis, and drug abuse can obstruct blood flow or lead to depression and reduced libido. Although the damage may seem permanent, the effects of drug abuse on erectile function can be treated safely and effectively.

Drug Use & ED - How are they linked?

Studies have found clear links between ED and drug abuse, yet many of the consequences are not fully understood due to how much usage varies [4].

However, there are some findings that give a more clear picture of the link between drug use and ED.

Illicit drug use, for instance, has often been associated with positive sexual side effects like more pleasurable orgasms or increased duration of sex [5]. Studies show that the long-term use of drugs like cocaine can lead to decreased blood flow to the penis due to vasoconstriction (the tightening of blood vessels, which prevents adequate blood flow to the penis) [5].

However, prescription drugs can cause similar effects. Hypertension and coronary heart disease are known conditions often associated with erectile dysfunction, but the antihypertensive medication prescribed to reduce the chance of death or comorbidity (the simultaneous presence of two or more medical conditions in a patient) can increase the likelihood of ED by another 20% [6].

Essentially, beta blockers can decrease blood flow to the penis [2]. But this is a double-edged sword, as the effects of blood pressure drugs on patients might be more psychological than physical, thereby triggering ED symptoms [2].

Drug use, whether prescription or illicit, is therefore associated with physically and psychologically induced erectile dysfunction.

Which Drugs Cause Erectile Dysfunction & How?

The use of many drugs, including alcohol, tobacco, opioids, and more, are linked to erectile dysfunction. However, prescription drugs are also linked to erectile dysfunction due to side effects and complications. Here is a brief overview of some of the main culprits.


The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). These drugs are successful in combatting depression, but can take “several weeks to months before optimally relieving the symptoms of depression.” However, SSRIs can lead to sexual dysfunction in over 40% of individuals [9].

SSRIs are responsible for increasing the Serotonin content in the brain, which increases feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Apart from this, it may disrupt the levels of some other neurotransmitters and hormones, including dopamine and testosterone. Their combined effects lead to unwanted results such as decreased sexual arousal, loss of libido, and erectile dysfunction [9].


Yes, even alcohol when abused can cause erectile dysfunction. Chronic alcoholism relaxes the response of penile cavernous tissue, which contains most of the blood in the penis during an erection. It can also impair vascular function and lead to cardiovascular risk [10]. Long-term, heavy drinking damages the blood cells and reduces testosterone levels, which affects libido and erectile function [10].


Erectile Dysfunction is twice as common in hypertensive patients than in individuals without the condition. Moreover, patients who were suffering from other cardiovascular diseases, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, etc. also face a higher chance of ED. [8]

Antihypertensives are used to treat high blood pressure levels in patients with hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. Organic ED (not psychogenic) is of vasculogenic origin – meaning that the penis is not receiving enough blood flow to maintain a stable erection. The use of antihypertensive treatment/beta blockers can exacerbate this, further reducing blood flow to the penis.


To enjoy a healthy erection, your penile blood vessels need to relax [4]. Cocaine prevents this by “tightening and constricting the blood vessels” [5]. It also over stimulates the brain, leading to decreased arousal when sober [5].


Diuretics work to reduce the excessive salt (sodium) content from your body, which lowers blood pressure. However, diuretics also may contribute to endothelial dysfunction, which controls vascular relaxation and contraction [11]. In other words, diuretics can reduce blood flow to the penis.


There is extensive research that has linked the use of opioids and erectile dysfunction. Heroin users, for instance, show a decline or even disappearance of sexual interest [12]. This is primarily because heroin use can reduce testosterone secretion [12].

What Now? Should I Stop Taking these Drugs?

When it comes to illicit drug use, the negative side effects (which can be permanent) are reason enough to stop using them [5].

However, when it comes to your prescription drugs, it’s not so simple. Medical adherence, or taking your medications correctly and in the right dosage, is crucial in combating disease.

Do not stop taking your prescribed medications without consulting a medical professional, because it may deteriorate your health and lead to other complications.

If you believe your medication is causing your erectile dysfunction, it’s important that you speak to your doctor in order to find out if there are better options.

A couple's romance is reignited after treating ed

What is a Safe Solution for Drug-Use Related ED?

At Modern Acoustic Medical, we are committed to giving you a safe roadmap to improved sexual performance.

We utilize Acoustic Wave Therapy to target the cause of erectile dysfunction in a way that’s non-invasive, safe, and pain-free with absolutely no pills or medication.

Acoustic Wave Therapy, also known as low-intensity extracorporeal shock therapy (Li-ESWT) has been proven to be effective for men struggling with mild to moderate forms of vasculogenic erectile dysfunction (90% of cases) [13].

How Do Shock Waves Help In The Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction?

To perform the treatment, our doctors utilize a wand-like device for directing very low-intensity shock waves onto the penis. These shock waves work to re-open veins and re-establish proper blood flow to the penis, which significantly improves erectile function.

Due to the adverse effects of prescription drugs and implants in treating ED, acoustic wave therapy has become a leading therapeutic option to treat erectile dysfunction. This treatment is risk-free, non-invasive, and there is no recovery time. That means you can get back to your daily routine without adding another pill to the equation.

If you have a vascular disorder, diabetes, nerve damage, prostate issues, Peyronie’s disease, or cardiovascular diseases, acoustic wave therapy can help. Our doctors at Modern Acoustic Medical will help you to determine a comprehensive treatment plan in order to restore your love life.


If you are taking any medications, consult with the doctors at Modern Acoustic Medical to find out if it may be causing your ED. After a comprehensive health assessment, you’ll receive a treatment plan to help you improve your erectile function and sexual performance.

When you’re ready to combat the effects of long-term drug use on your erectile function, book an appointment at Modern Acoustic Medical, and our doctors will take care of the rest.


  1. Del Río, F. J., Cabello, F., & Fernández, I. (2015). Influence of substance use on the erectile response in a sample of drug users. International journal of clinical and health psychology : IJCHP, 15(1), 37–43.

2. Harvard Health Publishing. “Some Drugs May Cause Your Erectile Dysfunction.” Harvard Health, 15 Feb. 2021,

3. Bang-Ping J. (2009). Sexual dysfunction in men who abuse illicit drugs: a preliminary report. The journal of sexual medicine, 6(4), 1072–1080.

4. Skeldon, S. C., & Goldenberg, S. L. (2014). Urological complications of illicit drug use. Nature Reviews. Urology, 11(3), 169-177.

5. “Does Cocaine Cause Erectile Dysfunction (ED)? | Cocaine & Erectile Dysfunction.” The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab,

6. Hackett, D.G. (2010), Hypertensive Medication and Erectile Dysfunction. Cardiovascular Therapeutics, 28: 5-7.

7. Lu, Z., Lin, G., Reed-Maldonado, A., Wang, C., Lee, Y. C., & Lue, T. F. (2017). Low-intensity Extracorporeal Shock Wave Treatment Improves Erectile Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. European urology, 71(2), 223–233. 

8. Laurence A Levine. (2000) Diagnosis and treatment of erectile dysfunction. The American Journal of Medicine, Volume 109, Issue 9, Supplement 1. Pages 3-12, ISSN 0002-9343,

9. Jing, E., & Straw-Wilson, K. (2016). Sexual dysfunction in selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and potential solutions: A narrative literature review. The mental health clinician, 6(4), 191–196.

10. Wang, X., Yun-Jin, B., Yu-Bo, Y., Jin-Hong, L., Tang, Y., & Han, P. (2018). Alcohol intake and risk of erectile dysfunction: a dose–response meta-analysis of observational studies. International Journal of Impotence Research, 30(6), 342-351.

11. Arıbaş, A., Kayrak, M., Ulucan, E., Keser, A., Demir, K., Alibaşiç, H., Akıllı, H., Solak, Y., Avcı, A., Turan, Y., Kaya, Z., Katlandur, H., & Kambay, M. (2013). The Relationship among Thiazide Like Diuretic, Uric Acid and Erectile Dysfunction in Hypertensive Subjects. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 62(18), C14–C15.

12. Zhang, M., Zhang, H., Shi, C. X., McGoogan, J. M., Zhang, B., Zhao, L., Zhang, M., Rou, K., & Wu, Z. (2014). Sexual Dysfunction Improved in Heroin-Dependent Men after Methadone Maintenance Treatment in Tianjin, China. PLoS One, 9(2)

13. Lu, Z., Lin, G., Reed-Maldonado, A., Wang, C., Lee, Y. C., & Lue, T. F. (2017). Low-intensity Extracorporeal Shock Wave Treatment Improves Erectile Function: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. European urology, 71(2), 223–233.

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