Using Alcohol, Drugs to Enhance Sex - A Dangerous Practice

Sexual Use of Drugs - A Dangerous Practice

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Many Teens Have Second Thoughts Later. © Getty Images

Club-going teens and adolescents who deliberately use alcohol and drugs to increase their chances of having sex, or to enhance sexual arousal, many times end up having unsafe sex or sex they later regret having, according to a study of 1,300 young people in Europe.

Researchers found that one-third of the young people surveyed, males and females, drank alcohol and/or took drugs as part of deliberate sexual strategies.

Alcohol is used mostly to increase their chances of having sex, while cocaine, ecstasy and marijuana are used to enhance sexual arousal or prolong sex.

Drug Use and Sexual Practices

More than 1,300 people between ages 16 and 35, who regularly socialize in nightclub settings, were given anonymous questionnaires about their substance use and sexual practices by public health and social workers throughout Europe.

The results of the survey:

  • Virtually all of the participants drank alcohol.
  • A majority had their first drink at age 14 or 15.
  • 75% of them had used marijuana.
  • 30% had used or tried cocaine.

Enhancing Sexual Experiences

The lead author, Mark Bellis of Liverpool John Moores University, reported that the alcohol drinkers gave the following reasons for using alcohol:

  • To facilitate sexual encounters (28.6%)
  • To promote unusual or exciting sexual activity (14.6%)
  • To enhance sensations and arousal (12.7%)
  • To prolong sex (11.6%)

Of the marijuana users, 25.8% said they used pot to enhance arousal, while 28.5% of cocaine users did coke for the same reason. Bellis found that more females used marijuana for sexual enhancement than males -- 29.2% compared to 23.2%.

Consequences of Risky Behavior

The use of alcohol and drugs to enhance sex has its consequences, namely increased risk-taking behavior and feeling regretful about having sex while under the influence, notes the survey.

Survey participants who drank or used drugs in the past four weeks were more likely to:

  • Have had five or more sexual partners
  • Have had sex without a condom.
  • Have regretted sex after drinking or using drugs

Having Sex at an Early Age

"Trends in recent decades have resulted in recreational drug use and binge drinking becoming routine features of European nightlife," said Bellis in a news release. "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."

The survey also revealed that those who used alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or ecstasy before age 16 were significantly more likely to have had sex before age 16. This was especially true for girls, who were four times more likely to have had sex before 16 if they used alcohol or drugs.

The Same Social Experience

"Sexual activity accompanied by substance use is not just incidental, but often sexually motivated," said 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."


Bellis, Mark. A, et al. BMC Public Health Sexual uses of alcohol and drugs and the associated health risks: a cross sectional study of young people in nine European cities" 9 May 2008

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