Q. Chronic use of alcohol is often given as a cause for the inability to maintain an erection. If this is the cause in my case, how long would I have to abstain before I could expect to experience an improvement? I am 50 years old.

A. Men with chronic high-level alcohol consumption typically experience a decrease in the number of sperm as well as a decrease in sexual drive. Researchers believe that the alcohol lowers the level of the male hormone testosterone, both by decreasing the production of the hormone and by increasing the speed at which the body metabolizes it. This means that there is less testosterone available for normal sperm production and sexual function.

When men stop drinking, testosterone production returns. In other words, if you stop drinking, and if you have not already suffered permanent liver damage, your sexual drive and possibly your erections will return. There is no exact time for this return of function to occur, but I would expect it would take at least two months.

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