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15 May 2008
Survey Reveals Substance Abuse Is An Important Part Of Sexual Repertoire For Young People
by George Atkinson

The results of a large anonymous survey, published in the journal BMC Public Health, show that teenagers and young adults regularly drink and take drugs as part of a deliberate sexual strategy to enhance sexual arousal and prolong sex.

Conducted by European researchers, the survey targeted people aged between 16 and 35 who routinely socialize in nightlife settings. The findings show that a third of 16-35 year old males and a quarter of females surveyed are drinking alcohol to increase their chances of sex, while cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis are intentionally used to enhance sexual arousal or prolong sex.

The study's lead author, Mark Bellis, from Liverpool John Moores University, noted that overall, alcohol was most likely to be used to facilitate a sexual encounter, while cocaine and cannabis were more likely to be utilized to enhance sexual sensations and arousal.

But despite these perceived sexual "benefits," drunkenness and drug use were also strongly associated with an increase in risk taking behavior and feeling regretful about having sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Thus, participants who had been drunk in the past month were more likely to have had five or more partners, sex without a condom and to have regretted sex after drink or drugs in the past 12 months. Cannabis, cocaine or ecstasy use was linked to similar consequences.

"Trends in recent decades have resulted in recreational drug use and binge drinking becoming routine features of European nightlife," said Bellis. "Millions of young Europeans now take drugs and drink in ways which alter their sexual decisions and increase their chances of unsafe sex or sex that is later regretted. Yet despite the negative consequences, we found many are deliberately taking these substances to achieve quite specific sexual effects."

"Sexual activity accompanied by substance use is not just incidental, but often sexually motivated," says co-author, Amador Calafat. "Interventions addressing sexual health are often developed, managed and implemented independently from those addressing substance use, and vice versa. However, young people often see alcohol, drugs and sex all as part of the same social experience and addressing these issues requires an equally joined up approach."

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Source: BioMed Central

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