The Connection Between Substance Use and Risky Sexual Behavior
Substance use comes with a wide variety of potential consequences. Some of these consequences — including addiction and overdose — are quite well-known. However, others may be less familiar. One such problem is an increased chance of taking part in risky sexual behavior. This is the term for a number of sex-related activities that can endanger your health or otherwise cause you harm. There is a clear connection between drug use, drinking and this kind of behavior.
Some people who take part in risky sexual behavior are addicted to drugs or alcohol. If this is true for you, enrollment in a substance treatment program is strongly recommended. An appropriate program can help you break the cycle of serious substance abuse. In this way, it can also decrease your exposure to the negative consequences of high-risk sex.
What Is The Link Between Sex and Drugs
Why do people often use drugs with sex? When you drink or use drugs, your brain and behavior are typically altered in multiple ways. In terms of sexual behavior, some of the most important changes are:
- A reduced ability to think rationally or make sound decisions
- An increase in the odds that you will act impulsively
- Loss of your normal level of personal inhibition
For many people, effects like these are desirable and help motivate substance use. This is true, in part, because they can provide you with a sense of freedom. And in some cases, that may include the freedom to act on your sexual impulses. Drugs and alcohol can also make you feel more confident and capable of fulfilling those impulses.
What Defines At-Risk Behavior With Sex and Drugs
At-risk sexual behavior is also known as high-risk sexual behavior. Not everyone defines this behavior in the exact same terms. However, behaviors that typically fall into the high-risk category include having sex with:
- More than one partner
- Someone else who has more than one partner
- A person who has a current or past history of IV drug use
Becoming sexually active at an early age is also considered a significant risk factor. So is having sex in exchange for money or drugs. In addition, several kinds of activities are considered risky if they occur outside of a long-term, exclusive relationship. Examples of these activities include:
- Having unprotected sex
- Taking part in anal sex
- Engaging in oral sex without protection
All of these behaviors are more likely to occur in people who take drugs or drink.
The Impact on Teenagers
The potentially damaging influence of substance use on your sexual behavior is important at any age. However, public health officials are particularly concerned about the impact on teenagers. Roughly 40% of all of America’s high school-age teens have had sex at least once. And close to 30% of high schoolers are sexually active.
What is the level of substance use among the nation’s sexually active teens? Almost 20% of these teenagers have taken drugs or consumed alcohol before a recent sexual encounter. The more drugs or alcohol teens use, the greater the odds that they will have sex. In addition, they will typically have sex with a larger overall number of people.
Not all teenagers have equal chances of having sex while drinking or taking drugs. Things that help increase the odds of this occurring include:
- Having parents with permissive attitudes toward sex and substance use
- An absence of positive parental influences
- Living in poverty
- Belonging to a peer group where substance use is accepted
- Feeling socially alienated
- Not having a personal investment in school or learning
The Risks of Associating Sex With Drug Use
What are the dangers associated with having sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs? Experts point to three main potential outcomes:
- Exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, or STD
- HIV/AIDS exposure
- Unplanned and/or unwanted pregnancy
Many types of diseases can be passed on through sexual intercourse. Some of these conditions are strongly linked to sexual activity, including:
- Genital herpes
Other conditions have a wider range of sources in addition to sex. Diseases in this category include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID
- Bacterial vaginosis
- Human papillomavirus, or HPV
HIV/AIDs also belongs to the same category. In addition, if you already have another kind of STD, your risks for contracting HIV go up.
A sexually transmitted disease can affect you in a variety of ways. Depending on the condition in question, possible results can include:
- A tubal or ectopic pregnancy
- Other problems during pregnancy
- Loss of fertility
- Chronic pain
Conditions such as hepatitis, HIV/AIDs and HPV-related cervical cancer can potentially kill you.
Roughly 45% of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned. Four in every 10 of these pregnancies result in abortions. Unfortunately, teenage girls have a high rate of involvement in unplanned pregnancy. Pregnant teens and teen mothers are far less likely to complete their high school educations. For this and other reasons, the children of teen mothers have increased risks for a number of significant problems. Examples of these problems include:
- Lower high school graduation rates
- Increased exposure to significant health issues
- Higher chances of going to jail or prison
- Greater odds of also becoming teen mothers
When Sex and Drugs Become Damaging
Any time you combine drugs or alcohol with sex, you may increase your risks for damaging consequences. Often, the connection between the two is impulsive behavior. Studies show that this kind of behavior is not only related to risky sexual behavior. It is also related to drug use. Among people who do not act impulsively, the odds of substance use and high-risk sexual behavior are significantly lower.
How Can I Get Help For Sex and Drug Misuse
Treatment is available for all forms of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. This is true no matter the:
- Specific substance you are using
- Amount of time you have been affected by your substance problem
- Severity of your addiction or non-addicted abuse
When you get the help you need, you can start to get your drug or alcohol misuse under control. As a result, you can also start breaking the connection between substance use and risky sexual behavior.
What kinds of treatment are needed to recover from substance problems? That depends, in large part, on the specific source of those problems. Why? Not all forms of addiction and abuse respond to the same treatment options. For example, options that are useful in opioid treatment may not help you recover from stimulant problems. Instead, if you are affected by stimulant addiction, you need a recovery plan designed for that particular condition. The same holds true for addiction to other classes of addictive substances.
Broadly speaking, the two main options for treating substance problems are medication and psychotherapy. Medication is typically limited to cases of:
- Opioid abuse and addiction
- Alcohol abuse and alcoholism
However, psychotherapy is used in all forms of modern substance treatment. There are many different kinds of therapy available. One or more of them can help you stay drug- and alcohol-free after you reach a state of sobriety.
Methods of Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Concerns
Sometimes, substance problems occur at the same time as other kinds of serious mental health issues. Common examples of these issues include:
- Major depression
- Anxiety disorders
- Bipolar disorders
- Eating disorders
Experts refer to the combination of such disorders with substance problems as dual diagnosis. If you are affected by dual diagnosis, you need additional treatment to recover. This is true because your recovery plan must address more than one condition.
Does dual diagnosis increase the odds that you will take part in risky sexual behavior? The answer to this question will vary from person to person. However, research indicates that people severely affected by mental illness frequently engage in high-risk sexual activities. This means that you may potentially have two conditions that increase your chances of acting in sexually risky ways.
Like separate substance treatment, dual diagnosis treatment varies from case to case. The specific options needed to support your recovery depend on:
- The nature of your substance problems
- The specific mental health issue occurring alongside those problems
Medication and therapy are common treatment options. Your particular treatment plan may include one or both of them. You may also benefit from participation in a dual diagnosis support group. Your doctor will help you determine the right choices for your particular situation.
Recovery From Sex and Drug Misuse Is Possible at The Discovery House
Do you or your loved one use drugs and participate in high-risk sex? Talk to the treatment specialists at The Discovery House. The help we provide can help you recover from even the most serious drug problems. We provide the same level of care for recovery from alcohol problems.
As part of the typical course of treatment at THD, you will receive some form of therapy. This therapy can help you address factors that contribute to or worsen your addiction symptoms. In so doing, it may also help you avoid taking part in risky sexual behaviors. To learn more about our treatment services, call us today.