Sexual Health and Substance Abuse

You’ve probably heard the motto “sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll.” While the phrase might be meant to express freedom and a good time, the actual use of sex + drugs can pose some serious danger. Whether the substance itself is legal (such as nicotine or alcohol) or illegal (such as various illicit drugs), the abuse of such substances can lead to negative effects on your sexual health.

There are always inherent risks associated with illicit drug abuse, and unfortunately there are also serious risks involved with sex. This is true of either thing on its own, but it is significantly worsened when the two are combined. Addiction and alcoholism are often breeding grounds for dangerous sexual behavior. According to the CDC, studies show that sexual risk behaviors increase in people who use alcohol, and are highest among those who use marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs (such as sedatives, opioids, and stimulants), and other illicit drugs. Here are some of the risks:

Increased Chance of STIs

The nature of substances such as drugs and alcohol is to alter the state of mind of the user. In an altered state of mind, inhibitions and good decision-making abilities are often lowered, which leads to an increased likelihood of participating in risky sexual behaviors (such as not using a condom, having multiple partners, or engaging in high-risk sexual activity) which all contribute to the spread of STIs.

Lowered inhibitions, desperation, unsanitary conditions and more can lead to an environment where drug users are significantly more prone to contract an STI than people who do not use drugs. Because many STIs are incurable, even one occasion of mixing sex and drugs or sex and alcohol can lead to a lifetime of medical complications.

Increased Chance of Unplanned Pregnancy

Similar to the increased chance of STIs, drug and alcohol abuse can also lead to an increased chance of an unplanned pregnancy. This is particularly true if lowered inhibitions cause laxity in the use of proper birth control methods.

In addition to an increased chance of unplanned pregnancy, if a woman continues to engage in substance abuse of any kind after she becomes pregnant, that will pose serious health risks to her unborn child. This includes, but is not limited to: Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), premature birth, stillbirth, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, behavioral dysfunction, cognitive impairment, and infant addiction at birth.

Increased Chance of Sexual Violence

Unfortunately, sexual violence can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, income level, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and education level. However (according to the CDC) certain risk factors can make a person more likely to become a victim; consuming alcohol and drug use are among those factors.

Perpetrators of sexual violence often look for victims who are vulnerable in some way. This can include victimizing people who are already addicted to substances and may be dependent and desperate, or have their good judgement and self-protection impaired. However, it can also include forcing a victim to use a substance against their will, lowering their ability to defend themselves or find help, and assaulting them.

Regardless of the situation, if you are a victim, you need to know that it is not your fault. There is never, ever an excuse to commit sexual violence against another person, and it is never, ever the victim’s fault.

If you are struggling with substance abuse and are concerned for your sexual health, or if you have been a victim of sexual violence, here are some immediate references for help below. You can also always come visit us at Choices Medical, and we will help you get the care that you need.

National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline:  1-800-656-HOPE (4673)

National Drug Helpline: 1-888-633-3239

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Resources available upon request.

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