There are some things in life that we all just accept, no questions asked, no scientific explanation needed. One of these things is, as someone on Reddit eloquently put it last week, “when your dick shrivels up because of coke.” But although the phenomenon is almost universally experienced, there’s very little research into exactly why cocaine turns your penis into a tiny little pin prick. And without much, if any, formal education about coke dick, people are left to their own devices (and the musings of Reddit) to figure out what’s going on, and whether this’ll impact the health of their penises in the future.
“The relationship between cocaine and erectile impairment is complex,” says Jordan Dixon, a London-based clinical psychosexual and relationship psychologist. “Exactly how drugs affect the penis, and their role in erectile impairment hasn’t been widely researched, [due to it] being legally problematic to test recreational drugs on humans.” Still, Dixon has become an expert of sorts in this field, studying the effect of different illicit drugs on sexual function.
“A healthy erection requires good blood flow and relaxed muscles in the penis,” she tells me. “Cocaine can disrupt this finely tuned process. It prevents relaxation by tightening and constricting the blood vessels, [meaning they] deliver less blood and oxygen to different cells in the body, eventually [cutting] off the flow of blood to the penis.”
If you do succeed in getting it up while you’re high, you might wonder: How does cocaine affect your horniess? And if you do manage to have sex on it, what does it feel like? “Cocaine is a powerful stimulant for the nervous system — its dopaminergic effects may amplify confidence, well-being and energy, leading to intensifications of feelings of sexual desire, as well as arousal and sensuality,” explains Dixon. “It’s a drug mostly used to increase stamina, and orgasm tends to be delayed. Cocaine can also lower inhibitions and increase sensitivity — however, if too much is taken, blood can get cut off, so there’s no healthy blood flow for the penis to enjoy itself fully.”
People often find this out the hard way (or not-so-hard way). As one redditor (and coke first-timer) recently wrote, “We get to the bathroom, make out a bit and she tells me to pull down my pants. I slip them down and, Oh my God, what the fuck is that?” they wrote. “My penis had shrunk down to a fucking micro dick. Then she starts to attempt to give me head. Can’t even properly be done at this point because it was like sucking on a pencil eraser. I know I’m never gonna get hard because I’m so drunk and coked out of my mind, so I just say, ‘Listen, I’m so fucking coked-up, please don’t tell anyone about this,’ and basically run out of the bathroom. Back to the main party scene, and everyone is staring and laughing. I had to call and console with my bro because I was so embarrassed.”
And, for regular users, it might not just be one night of mishaps. “Excessive use can lead to more chronic forms of erectile impairment, such as priapism (a long-lasting, painful erection),” continues Dixon, adding that regular users might also experience “increased anxiety” about sex, making it difficult for them “to be present during sexual encounters.” Plus, long-term use can reduce a person’s sex drive, result in a loss of feelings of control during sex, as well as sensation, and encourage rapid ejaculation. “Prolonged high levels of dopamine will cause neurons to become less sensitive to sexual stimulation,” Dixon adds. “Therefore, sexual stimulation while sober will likely not cause the same levels of arousal as it used to before cocaine use began.”
For those who are worried that their cocaine use seems to be having a long-term impact on their ability to get or maintain an erection, feel aroused or be present during sex, Dixon recommends seeking out a psychosexual therapist who specializes in addiction. “This type of specific therapy can help establish a mind-body connection and look at any underlying emotional issues addressing addictions,” she says. “It can also educate, and [help you] work through specific penis exercises to regain connection with your penis.”
Still, the main preventative method is to just do coke in small doses — especially if you don’t want to, as one redditor recalled, spend three hours “and multiple restarts” jerking off after your big night out.