Using excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol can hurt a person’s sexual life in many ways. Erectile dysfunction (ED), low libido, and other sexual problems can be linked with substance abuse. In addition, recovering addicts often have psychological work to do. For example, they might need to process past traumas (sexual or otherwise) or repair relationships that have been damaged by the addiction.
However, people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction can still have healthy sexual relationships. The following steps can help:
- A thorough medical exam. Having a complete checkup with a doctor can pinpoint the causes of some sexual problems. For instance, diabetic men often have problems with erections. A woman in menopause could have trouble with vaginal lubrication. Drugs and alcohol can take a significant toll on the body in general, which might affect sexual function. A doctor can offer treatments and strategies for coping with any changes.
- A review of medications. Along with a medical exam, it’s important to review the medications a person takes. For example, methadone can help people recover from heroin or opiate addictions, but it may also have sexual side effects, like lower testosterone levels in men. Other medications, like antidepressants, can lower libido and cause erectile difficulties. Sometimes, adjustments need to be made. However, patients should never adjust medications on their own. This should always be done under a doctor’s care.
- Counseling and sex therapy. For some patients, using drugs and alcohol has been a way of coping with past sexual abuse and other traumatic events. Others might drink or take drugs if they struggle to come to terms with homosexuality or feelings about gender identity. Whatever the reason, counseling can help individuals process their emotions and beliefs, build their self-confidence and esteem, and develop a healthy support system. Patients can also learn about communication, repairing relationships, and safer sex practices.
- Lifestyle changes. Following a healthy diet and staying physically fit can improve sexual health as well as overall health.
- A slow pace. Some addiction experts recommend that patients take it slow when starting new sexual relationships. This approach can give people more time to rebuild their lives during and after addiction treatment.
Crossroads Center Antigua
“Is There Sex After Recovery?”
Wilson, Mou MFT
“Dealing with Sex in Drug and Alcohol Recovery”
(March 11, 2010)
“Resuming Your Sex Life During Recovery”
(November 18, 2016)
“Methadone Reduces Testosterone in Men, But Not Women”
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
(Last updated: September 28, 2015)