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Article Summary

Sex Under the Influence

Alcohol and other drug use is linked to risky sexual behavior and poses significant threats to the health of adolescents. Substance abuse may impair adolescents' ability to make judgments about sex and contraception, placing them at increased risk for unplanned pregnancy, sexual assault, or becoming infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), including HIV/AIDS.

We know the AIDS virus can be transmitted through sharing hypodermic needles. Less is known about the dangerous role of alcohol and other drugs in sexual behavior that may lead to STDs and HIV/AIDS. To compound matters, there is also considerable evidence that alcohol and other drugs weaken the immune system, thereby increasing susceptibility to infection and disease.

Statistics on Sex while Under the Influence

Consider the following statistics:

  • The use of alcohol and other drugs can affect judgment and lead to taking serious sexual risks.
  • There were 18,540 cases of AIDS among 13- to 24-year-olds reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by the end of 1994.
  • About 75 percent of high school seniors have had sexual intercourse at least once in their lives; about 20 percent have had more than four sexual partners by their senior year.
  • Studies show that adolescents are less likely to use condoms when having sex after drinking alcohol than when sober. This places them at even higher risk for HIV infection, STDs, and unwanted pregnancy.
  • A survey of high school students found that 18 percent of females and 39 percent of males say it is acceptable for a boy to force sex if the girl is stoned or drunk.

CDC Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV/AIDS has been the sixth leading cause of death among 15- to 20-year-olds in the United States for over three years. One in five of the new AIDS cases diagnosed is in the 20 to 29 year age group, meaning that HIV transmission occurred during the teen years. Additionally, more than half of new cases of HIV infection in 1994 were related to drug use.

There is still much to be learned about the relationship between alcohol and other drugs and sexual behavior. During the past decade, teens reported higher levels of sexual activity at earlier ages, experienced more unplanned pregnancies, and suffered higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases. To reduce the incidence of these problems in the future, prevention of alcohol and other drug abuse must be a top priority.

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