Alcohol use, especially binge drinking, is associated with risky sexual behaviors and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), according to several research studies. Alcohol abuse increases the risk for STDs in three key ways: (1) multiple partners; (2) unprotected sex (sex without a condom); and (3) combining additional substance abuse with alcohol and sexual activities.
Alcohol lowers inhibitions, which means that both men and women are more likely to engage in casual sexual behaviors that they would not otherwise do if they were sober. Heavy drinkers are also more likely to have multiple partners, increasing the risk for HIV transmission and STDs. For example, young adults who use alcohol are seven times more likely to have unprotected sex, according to the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois. Finally, alcohol can also impair an individual’s immune system, making it harder to fight off an STD.
Alcohol Abuse, Risky Sexual Behaviors Common for Young Adults
Alcohol abuse and risky sexual behaviors are common amongst young adult students, according to the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois. Nearly 50 percent of men and 41 percent of women report having consumed alcohol just prior to sex. Alcohol use played a role in the decision to have these sexual encounters: 49 percent of men and 38 percent of women reported having sex as the direct result of drinking.
Additionally, 26 percent of males and nearly 36 percent of females failed to use a condom during sex with someone they met on spring break – and heavy alcohol use played a role in this risky behavior. 23 percent of sexually active teens report having unprotected sex because they were using alcohol or drugs at the time. Nearly half of all men and women (48 percent) who had sex under the influence of alcohol regretted the sexual encounter.
According to data from the 2005 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more 18- to 25-year-olds have an STD than any other age group. STD rates were especially high for individuals who had used both alcohol and an illicit drug in the past month (3.9 percent) versus only alcohol (2.1 percent) and only an illicit drug (also 2.1 percent). These statistics are for individuals who had been to a doctor within the last year and been told they had a sexually transmitted disease such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, or syphilis; they do not include HIV/AIDs transmission.
Binge Drinking and STDs: Research Shows Significant Risk for Female Binge Drinks
Women who binge drink are disproportionately more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors and contract STDs when compared with men who binge drink. According to a 2008 study funded by the National Institute for Health (NIH), women binge drinkers are twice as likely to engage in anal sex when compared with women who consume alcohol but do not binge drink, and three times as likely as women who do not drink at all.
Forty percent of women who binge drink report having multiple sex partners, versus only 16.8 percent of women who do not binge drink. Gonorrhea is five times higher among women who binge drink when compared with women who do not drink at all. And while men who drink also engage in risky sexual behaviors, the level of alcohol consumption did not affect their risk in the same way that it affected women.
Alcohol and Sexual Assault
Alcohol is also a factor in sexual assault. At least half of all college sexual assault are associated with alcohol use. In 81 percent of sexual assaults, both the victim and perpetrator had consumed alcohol. Additionally, when alcohol is involved in sexual assault, victims are less likely to consider the experience ‘rape’, according to the McKinley Health Center at the University of Illinois.
Monitoring alcohol use or avoiding alcohol altogether can reduce the risk for engaging in risky sexual behaviors – decreased inhibitions, sex without a condom, multiple partners, and illicit drug use – that are associated with an increased risk for STDs.
To learn more about how alcohol use increases the risk for STD’s, contact us at 877-466-0620.