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Alcohol, Drugs & Sex
Having sex while drunk or high on drugs
Sex, drink and drugs. Sound like fun? Well, they can be. But they also carry risks, especially when they’re mixed together. People often have strong opinions about sex, drink and drugs – whatever your views, you will find that knowing more about the issues will help you to make your own choices.
“We had sex at New Year, which was very blurred as we were both extremely drunk... I do remember that we didn't use anything and I was not on the birth control pill.”17 year-old girl
Does drinking and taking drugs make sex better?
Sex can be nerve-wracking and people sometimes find that having a few drinks can relax them:
"My boyfriend wants me to do sex things with him but the only way I can manage is when I get drunk because otherwise I am too scared or embarrassed.”16 year-old girl1
Drink and drugs might make you feel less nervous about sex – but then if you need these things to feel comfortable, you’re probably not with the right person, you may not be ready to start having sex yet, or maybe you just need to work on being more comfortable with yourself.
If you want to have sex, you don’t need to rely on alcohol and drugs to enjoy it, but you may need to practice talking to your partner about what you both want. Reading AVERT’s page ‘Relationships and feelings’ may help you.
Sex can be less good...
Sexual ‘performance’ can actually diminish after drinking alcohol or taking drugs. Alcohol can make someone less coordinated. And it is an anaesthetic, meaning it numbs the genitals' nerve cells, making it more difficult to reach orgasm. Alcohol can also make it harder for boys to achieve an erection and for girls’ vaginas to become lubricated.
Drugs can have a similar effect. Some people take drugs like ecstasy (E, pills), MDMA, cocaine (coke, charlie, blow) and amphetamines (speed) to make them more sexually excited, to make them 'last longer' in bed, or because they think they will have a more pleasurable orgasm. However these drugs can actually cause erection and orgasm problems. You may hear stories about people having sex for hours while taking drugs, but that’s probably because they can't reach orgasm – it doesn't necessarily mean that they're having better sex!
Drinking and drugs can make sex unsafe...
Drink and drugs can make you think less clearly. You may forget (or simply don’t bother) to use a condom, which could lead to unwanted pregnancy, or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) being passed on.
Drinking can make you go further than you plan to...
If you and your boyfriend/girlfriend want to experiment with touching one another, or try pleasuring each other without having full on sex, this is safe (you still need to make sure that you are both comfortable with what you’re doing through). You may plan not to go further than this, but once again, drink and drugs can make you think less clearly about the decisions that are right for you. It’s good to decide what you feel comfortable with when you’re sober and can think for yourself!
Sex could be unwanted...
In many countries, it is against the law to have sex with someone if they are too drunk to make a decision about it. Sex has to involve the consent of everyone involved from beginning to end, and somebody who is drunk or has taken drugs may be more likely to change their mind half way through, and therefore no longer be consenting.
Many people are sexually assaulted when they are drunk or on drugs. This could be because somebody has encouraged the person they attack to get drunk, or spiked their drink with stronger drinks or with a ‘date rape’ drug such as rohypnol. Or they may have just taken advantage of a person who got drunk of their own accord. It is vital that you know how to keep yourself and those around you safe:
- Keep an eye on your friends. If you go out, it is a good idea to have one person who stays sober for the night.
- Never leave a drink unattended in a public place.
- If somebody you are with is suddenly unwell or very tired, go home as a group.
- Have a plan for how you will get home safely at the end of the night.
Everyone I know is drinking, taking drugs or having sex…
A lot of young people feel pressured into trying alcohol, drugs and sex by their friends, schoolmates and other people of the same age group – their peers. When this happens, it’s called peer pressure. Peer pressure is the pressure that you feel to be like everyone else and fit in. It can be about all kinds of things, from fashion to dating and beyond. It’s not always a bad thing, and it plays a big role in helping to shape our identities, how we talk, act and dress. But peer pressure can also cause people to do things that go against their will or beliefs – and with drink, drugs and sex, this is often what happens.
“I remember a party with my sister. I was very scared, thinking: I have to drink. These people are so much older. I have to impress them.”Megan2
“When I was in year 9, my friends pressured me into smoking marijuana or "pot". I really didn't want to but I thought life is short, and I gave into peer pressure. The first time, I suddenly spaced out and got high. I didn't know what to do, I wanted to beat people up. I hated it, but I kept on trying it whenever we were at parties.”Simone3
“At 16 I was not ready to lose my virginity, I didn't have a steady boyfriend, I had little confidence in myself and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All my friends were having sex. They acted as if losing your virginity was no big deal. It is! Trust me! I now know that I lost my virginity to the WRONG guy! He was a sleaze and I was just another girl to him.”Fi4
You can be in control. You may have your own reasons for wanting to try drink, drugs or sex, but if you’re only doing these things because of peer pressure, then this is the wrong reason. It’s not always easy to say ‘no’, but if the people you’re with are really your friends, they’ll respect your decisions. Stand your ground and do what feels right for you, not anyone else.
“You don't need to drink just because somebody's telling you to drink. You have your own ways. That's what you got to tell them: My way is to stay the way I am, and I don't want to drink. If they can't respect that, then you need to leave them.”Ilton5
“One morning, I had a wake up call and decided to not hang around these friends. I knew after this whole experience with pot, I would not give in to peer pressure again. My experience helped me realize what not to do.”Simone6
The final word
Ultimately, it is up to you to assess the risks and make decisions. If you are going to drink, take drugs or have sex, be aware of the problems they can cause and take measures to minimise the risks to yourself and those around you.
- If you’re going to drink, do it responsibly and make sure you’re around people you can trust.
- If you’re going to do drugs, the same applies, and you should also make sure that you know the score about what you’re taking – read more about drugs on information sites like Frank.
- With sex, make sure that you use a condom to prevent STIs and pregnancy, or if you’re with a regular partner who you’re certain doesn’t have an STI, other birth control methods that can prevent pregnancy.
- Keep in mind the law. Almost all recreational drugs are illegal, and they usually carry heavy penalties. The legal drinking age varies between countries but is generally at least 18, and 21 in some countries, such as the U.S. Laws about sex also differ between countries, so make sure that you know the age of consent.
- Combining drink and drugs with driving is illegal in almost every country and is always a bad idea.
- Don’t let peer pressure dictate your decisions. Work out what’s best for you as an individual, and stand up for yourself. If you don’t want to drink, take drugs or have sex, then that’s perfectly fine, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you differently.
- 1. Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV (2007, June), 'Sex, Drugs, Alcohol and Young People'
- 2. Abouthealth.com, 'Alcohol: feeling peer pressure' (accessed 3/8/07)
- 3. Girl.com.au, peer pressure (accessed 3/8/07)
- 4. Girl.com.au, peer pressure (accessed 3/8/07)
- 5. Abouthealth.com, 'Alcohol: feeling peer pressure' (accessed 3/8/07)
- 6. Girl.com.au, peer pressure (accessed 3/8/07)