FRIDAY, May 9, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Many teens and young adults in Europe are drinking alcohol and taking drugs for sexual purposes, according to a survey of more than 1,300 people who are regular nightlife-goers.
The results showed that a third of males and a quarter of females aged 16 to 35 drink alcohol to increase their chances of sex, while cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis are used to enhance sexual arousal or prolong sex.
Nearly all of the respondents reported alcohol use, with most having had their first drink when they were 14 or 15 years old. About three-quarters had tried or used cannabis, and about 30 percent had at least tried ecstasy or cocaine.
Even though many respondents believed alcohol and drugs offered sexual "benefits," the survey found that drunkenness and drug use were strongly associated with an increase in risk-taking behavior and feelings of regret about having sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
For example, those who'd been drunk in the previous four weeks were more likely to have had five or more sex partners, sex without a condom, and to have regretted sex after drink or drugs in the past year. Similar consequences were noted in those who'd used cannabis, cocaine or ecstasy.
Respondents who used alcohol, cannabis, cocaine or ecstasy before age 16 were much more likely to have had sex before that age. This was especially true for girls, who were nearly four times as likely to have had sex before the age of 16, if they drank alcohol or used cannabis before that age.
The findings were published in the journal BMC Public Health.
"Trends in recent decades have resulted in recreational drug use and binge drinking becoming routine features of European nightlife," lead author Mark Bellis, of Liverpool John Moores University, said in a prepared statement. "Millions of young Europeans now take drugs and drink in ways that 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," noted co-author, consultant psychiatrist 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."
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has more about alcohol-related risk behaviors among youth.