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Last updated: Nov 30, 2021
4 min read

Is it safe to take Viagra with alcohol?

Disclaimer

If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you’re currently pouring yourself a drink and wondering if it’s safe to combine Viagra and alcohol, here’s what you need to know: It is likely safe to take Viagra with alcohol if you are drinking in moderation and have consulted with your healthcare provider. 

However, there are some strings attached to that statement. Let’s dive a bit deeper into how alcohol and Viagra (generic name: sildenafil citrate) affect the body and when it’s best to pump the brakes on mixing sildenafil and alcohol. 

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Can you take Viagra with alcohol?

Many men drink alcohol on the days they plan to use Viagra (see Important Safety Information), commonly known as the “little blue pill.” As long as your alcohol use is not excessive (and have cleared it with your healthcare provider), it is likely safe for you to have a glass or two of wine (or the equivalent serving of beer or spirits) while taking sildenafil, or its brand-name, Viagra (DailyMed, 2020). 

Side effects of Viagra and alcohol 

People who abuse alcohol (more than 15 drinks a week) and take Viagra recreationally may have a higher risk of side effects (Kim, 2019). 

One study showed that over 45% of men who took Viagra with alcohol for recreational purposes had a higher risk of side effects, including facial flushing, headaches, chest pain, changes in vision, and lightheadedness (Kim, 2019).

Grapefruit juice, sildenafil, and alcohol

The type of alcohol you drink and what you mix it with may also matter. A study looking at men who drank red wine and took Viagra showed no clinically significant interaction with the combination (Leslie, 2004). However, if you prefer grapefruit juice with your cocktails, there may be an interaction with sildenafil. 

Viagra is broken down by the liver, and grapefruit juice may affect how well the liver can accomplish this. Researchers looked at men who took Viagra with grapefruit juice and found that the combination can increase the amount of the drug circulating in your body (Jetter, 2002). 

While this is not usually a dangerous outcome, higher levels of Viagra may increase the risk of common side effects like headaches, flushing, or low blood pressure (DailyMed, 2020). To be safe, you should avoid taking Viagra with grapefruit juice and consider another mixer if you’re planning on combining sildenafil and alcohol.

Alcohol and erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) tends to affect men in older age groups, especially those aged 70 years and over. However, ED does not only happen in old age—it can also occur in younger men. Lifestyle factors can also increase the risk of developing this condition. These include obesity, smoking, lack of physical activity, and excessive alcohol consumption (AUA, 2018). 

A common term for ED after drinking alcohol is “whiskey dick.” The effects of alcohol on a man’s erectile function will vary. In general, alcohol acts as a depressant. It can cause erection problems by negatively affecting some of the pathways involved in sexual arousal, blood circulation, and nerve sensitivity—all of which need to be functioning properly to have a satisfying sexual desire l encounter (Arackal, 2007). 

For example, alcohol intoxication can slow the signals between the brain and the penis responsible for getting an erection. Drinking alcohol can also lead to dehydration, which reduces blood flow and impacts your ability to get an erection.

How much sildenafil and alcohol is too much?

If you are going to consume alcohol while taking Viagra, be sure to do so responsibly. Limit your alcohol intake to 1–2 drinks per day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the amount of alcohol in a standard drink is one of the following (CDC, 2020):

  • 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content)
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content)
  • 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content)
  • 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey)

Drink water or nonalcoholic beverages in between the alcoholic drinks to prevent dehydration. Know your limits, and be sure to stop drinking alcohol when you start to feel intoxicated.

And, for those on certain prescription drugs like nitrates or alpha-blockers, do not take Viagra, even without alcohol, before speaking with your healthcare provider as negative drug interactions and serious side effects can occur when these are combined with Viagra.

Mixing Viagra and alcohol: the takeaway

The bottom line is that you don’t have to completely give up alcohol if you’re taking Viagra. You can still safely have a drink, but remember that alcohol can sometimes make it more difficult for you to get an erection. And if you have more questions about mixing sildenafil and alcohol, or are curious about other ED medications like Cialis (generic name tadalafil; see Important Safety Information) or Levitra (vardenafil), contact your healthcare provider.

References

  1. American Urology Association (AUA). (2018). Erectile Dysfunction (ED): Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment. (2018). Retrieved November 24, 2021 from https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/e/erectile-dysfunction-(ed)
  2. Arackal, B. S., & Benegal, V. (2007). Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in male subjects with alcohol dependence. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 49(2), 109–112. Doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.33257. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917074/
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2020). Facts about moderate drinking. Retrieved November 24, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/moderate-drinking.htm
  4. DailyMed. (2020). Viagra- sildenafil citrate tablet, film coated. Retrieved on November 24, 2021, from https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/lookup.cfm?setid=a2a9f459-e692-4e85-83b0-a35fbf35e91b#section-7.5
  5. Jetter, A., Kinzig-Schippers, M., Walchner-Bonjean, M., Hering, U., Bulitta, J., & Schreiner, P. et al. (2002). Effects of grapefruit juice on the pharmacokinetics of sildenafil. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 71(1), 21-29. doi: 10.1067/mcp.2002.121236. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11823754/
  6. Kim, J., Oh, J., Park, D., Hong, Y., & Yu, Y. (2019). Influence of Alcohol on Phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors Use in Middle- to Old-Aged Men: A Comparative Study of Adverse Events. Sexual Medicine, 7(4), 425-432. doi: 10.1016/j.esxm.2019.07.004. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31444051/
  7. Leslie, S., Atkins, G., Oliver, J., & Webb, D. (2004). No adverse hemodynamic interaction between sildenafil and red wine. Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 76(4), 365-370. doi: 10.1016/j.clpt.2004.07.005. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15470336/