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Alcohol’s Effects on Testosterone: Risks, Symptoms, and Recovery Options

Written by Jonathan Strum

& Medically Reviewed by Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD

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Medically Reviewed by Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD

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Updated 03/02/2022

Changes in testosterone levels caused by drinking alcohol can have far-reaching health consequences in both men and women. In some cases, these effects can be reversed.

Alcohol’s impact on the endocrine system, the part of the body that regulates hormones, is well known among experts. Drinking impacts many hormones throughout the human body, including hormones like testosterone that are involved in sexual function.

Alcohol and Testosterone in Males and Females

Alcohol is one of the most commonly abused substances worldwide. Overall, about 7.4% of Americans have an alcohol use disorder. The problem may be even worse in Florida, where 15% of adults reported binge drinking in 2014 and 16.6% of high school students reported binge drinking in 2013.

Although many people think of testosterone as a male hormone, it is important for both male and female physiology. In men, it is responsible for libido, sperm production and bone and muscle mass. In women, testosterone plays a role in reproductive health and bone mass. Drinking is known to impact testosterone levels in both men and women. Given the high prevalence of drinking in America, many people may be at risk for testosterone-related problems.

Alcohol and Male Testosterone

Drinking affects testosterone by influencing a circuit in the body called the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. Chemicals in this axis control the production of both testosterone and sperm. Drinking throws off this hormonal cycle, leading to lower testosterone levels. In turn, the body’s ability to make sperm decreases, which also negatively affects fertility.

Doctors think this occurs due to factors like alcohol byproducts, enzymes that the body uses to break down alcohol and similar chemical reactions.

Some men will not have symptoms of low testosterone, while other men will be symptomatic. Symptoms can include:

  • Low sex drive
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Ejaculation problems
  • Decreased hair on the body and face
  • Decreased bone density and muscle mass
  • Increased body fat
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Anemia

Alcohol and Female Testosterone

Drinking affects a woman’s HPG axis in similar ways. However, testosterone levels in women may increase after drinking, possibly causing changes in female sex characteristics like fat distribution and body hair.

The female menstrual cycle is also controlled by the HPG axis, which adds to the complexity of hormonal disruption from drinking. Drinking can increase estrogen levels and decrease progesterone levels, leading to fertility problems and menstrual irregularities.

Different Types of Alcohol and Testosterone

Little research has been conducted into different types of alcohol and how they impact testosterone. Many people think that beer may lower testosterone levels more than other types of alcohol due to the plant-based estrogens in hops. However, there is little evidence that beer has a greater impact on testosterone than other forms of alcohol.

Plant-based estrogens are found in a variety of common foods, such as wheat and potatoes. However, these foods do not have a known link to low testosterone. One older study showed that both beer and wine decreased testosterone levels. The only difference was in the timing of the lower testosterone levels and the blood alcohol levels at which the effects occurred.

How To Reverse Effects of Alcohol on Testosterone Levels

Fortunately, low testosterone levels can be reversed after several weeks of not consuming alcohol. Further, researchers have found that many of the effects of low testosterone, such as erectile dysfunction, are also reversible. Testosterone replacement therapy is also available.

Alcohol and Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Some testosterone replacement products are FDA-approved for men with low testosterone caused by drinking. It’s advised to refrain from drinking while using testosterone products to avoid worsening the problem. Further, testosterone is a Schedule III controlled substance with a risk of abuse, addiction and dependence. Combining an addictive substance like testosterone with another addictive substance like alcohol — especially if your struggle with alcohol use has led to low testosterone levels — may be risky.

Long-Term Hormonal Effects of Alcohol Abuse

Some effects of alcohol abuse, including changes in testosterone levels, are reversible. However, drinking can also cause hormonal changes that increase the risk of some irreversible health conditions. These include:

  • Diabetes, especially with heavy drinking
  • Permanent immune system dysfunction, which increases susceptibility to some cancers
  • Reduced brain mass
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Liver disease
  • Low bone mass, which increases the risk of fractures

Finding Help for Alcohol Abuse

If you struggle with drinking and are trying to overcome it, it is important to find a rehab facility that can effectively treat alcohol use disorder. A key part of cleansing your body is finding a detox facility that specializes in helping people carefully taper off alcohol while avoiding withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, a rehab facility staffed with alcohol addiction experts will be invaluable in helping you start an alcohol-free life. Our experts at The Recovery Village at Baptist Health are here to help you successfully quit drinking. Contact us today to learn more about programs that can work well for your needs.

Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction?

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FAQ

Does alcohol lower testosterone?

Lower testosterone levels in men is a known side effect of alcohol use. In women, drinking may cause testosterone levels to increase.

How much does alcohol lower testosterone?

Alcohol’s impact on hormones like testosterone depends on the amount that you drink. Generally, higher amounts of alcohol will have more impact on your hormone levels.

Will quitting alcohol increase testosterone?

Testosterone levels have been shown to increase after several weeks of sobriety.

Does alcohol increase testosterone in females?

Drinking can raise testosterone levels in females, as well as cause other hormonal abnormalities.

What are the effects of alcohol on testosterone and sex drive?

Low testosterone from drinking can decrease libido, cause erectile dysfunction and make it difficult to ejaculate.

View Sources

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