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Young People Say Alcohol and Drugs Influence Sexual Decision Making
by GayHealth Staff

Nearly one quarter of teenagers and young adults report having unprotected sex because they were using drugs or alcohol at the time, according to new national survey.

For teens, drinking and sex is at least as dangerous as drinking and driving.

The survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation included almost 1,000 respondents who were interviewed over the telephone about their sexual practices. Twenty-nine percent of participants reported going farther than planned sexually because they were using drugs or alcohol. While 36 percent of sexually active young people said that drinking or drug use has influenced their decisions about sex, almost half of those interviewed said they were "personally" concerned about what they might do sexually while intoxicated.

While the survey did not include a question about sexual orientation, alcohol and drug use is often widespread in the LGBT communities. Gay and lesbian bars and clubs are often among the first places young LGBT people feel comfortable with their sexuality -- and drugs and alcohol are prevalent in these places.

"For teens, drinking and sex is at least as dangerous as drinking and driving," said Joseph A. Califano Jr., president of CASA and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. "The message of this study is loud and clear: to be effective, sex education -- in all its forms -- must discuss the connection between sexual activity and alcohol and drug abuse, and those who promote abstinence must help teens see that connection."

Half of those interviewed said people their age mix alcohol and drugs a lot, 73 percent think peers forgo condoms when alcohol or drugs are involved and 37 percent want more information about how drugs might effect decisions about having sex.

Young girls and women were more likely than young boys and men to report that their peers are having unprotected sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol, 79 versus 65 percent.

"Many teens, as well as young adults, are mixing sex with alcohol and drugs, and putting themselves at risk," said Drew E. Altman, Ph.D., president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. "These are sensitive issues that many young people donít like to talk about, so these data likely underestimate the full extent of the problem."

Updated: Friday, February 8th 2002


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