Alcohol, Marijuana Use Increases College Students’ Risky Behavior


A study out of Oregon State University suggests that college students are more likely to engage in sexual activity on days when they had also used marijuana or drank alcohol than on days when they do not.

The study, which appears in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, also found that students in a serious dating relationship who also participated in binge drinking were less likely to use a condom when having sex, increasing the risk for sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies.   Students in serious relationships accounted for 90% of binge drinking-related hookups, reports David Downs for SFGate.

Researchers considered binge drinking to be consuming four or more alcoholic beverages for women, and five or more for men.

Sex without a condom is considered risky behavior, as condom use is the only way to prevent against STIs including HIV.

In addition, college students were found to be more likely to have sex on days they also used marijuana.  However, no link between marijuana use and condom use was found.  This study is one of the first times marijuana use has been looked at in relation to risky behaviors, and examining its effects is becoming increasingly important as more states across the country are beginning to legalize its use as a recreational drug.

Participants included 284 undergraduates from Oregon State University.  For the study, researchers recorded their use of marijuana use, alcohol use, engagement in intercourse and whether or not a condom was used over the course of 24 days.

“Adjusting for weekly patterns in intercourse, odds of intercourse were higher on days participants reported marijuana or heavy alcohol use; the latter effect was stronger for single participants.”

Lead author David Kerr said the findings suggest that people judge risky behaviors such as sexual activity and condom use differently when they are drunk.

Kerr went on to say that while there have been a multitude of previous studies that looked into college students who participate in risky behaviors while drinking, there have been few that have taken a closer look into the activity of these students on days they were drinking versus days they were not.

“Two findings stood out,” Kerr said. “Students in serious relationships had almost 90 percent of the sex reported in our study. But serious partners used a condom only a third of the time, compared to about half the time among single students. More frequent sex plus less protection equals higher risk.

“The stereotypical image is of college students drinking and having casual sex,” Kerr said. “That is real, but in our study it was striking how often those in serious relationships were putting their guard down.”

Kerr hopes the findings will be used by prevention professionals for the improvement of sexual health messaging, determining how and when would be the best time to distribute condoms, and placing a focus on STI prevention.

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