Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Link between young women's beliefs on alcohol use and sex



It may come as little surprise that alcohol use is widespread among young adults. In the U.S., 70 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 drink alcohol, with 40 percent of women imbibing over the recommended daily limit of 3 drinks per day. Add that to preconceived notions that alcohol-related behavior results in sexual risk-taking, and it may point to why young women are experiencing an increased prevalence of sexually-transmitted infections.

New research from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine shows that just over two-thirds (66.9 percent) of college-aged women engaged in unprotected sex during their last sexual encounter involving alcohol.

The study, published online in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, set out to understand how one's beliefs about alcohol and sex affect condom use during sexual encounters involving alcohol. Based on participants surveyed, sex without a condom was significantly and positively related to both one's motivation for sexual activity to satisfy personal physical needs and stronger beliefs that alcohol promotes sexual risk-taking.

"Understanding the factors that may underlie the association between alcohol and condomless sex among young women is of considerable public health importance," says Jennifer Brown, PhD, lead author and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the UC College of Medicine. "Particularly because incident HIV infections and other sexually transmitted infections are on the rise among women, and the majority of these are transmitted via heterosexual contact."

Among the characteristics of reported sexual encounters, most women in the study consumed more than 3 to 5 drinks and described themselves and their partner as being "moderately intoxicated."

"Most young women reported levels of heavy drinking prior to sex, which can impair their cognitive functioning and decision-making. These findings underscore the need to examine the associations between alcohol consumption and sexual risk-taking," says Brown, whose research in the Addiction Sciences Division focuses on substance use and sexual health. Brown adds, "Within this context, beliefs that drinking could result in sexual risk-taking may account for why motives for sex to satisfy personal physical needs relate to decreased condom use."

Study participants consisted of 287 college-age females, primarily Caucasian, who anonymously self-reported on their most recent sexual activity involving alcohol. Participants were surveyed to examine their associations between alcohol use and sexual behavior and to self-report events of sexual encounters after drinking alcohol within the last 30 days.

"Relative to older women, young women engage in an elevated rate of alcohol use and are at increased risk for adverse sexual health outcomes. Interventions that target beliefs around alcohol use, which could assist young women to increase condom usage, could show benefit in the reduction of HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections, as well as unintended pregnancies," says Brown.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Comparing sexual experiences related to alcohol and marijuana use


A new study, published in Archives of Sexual Behavior by researchers affiliated with New York University's Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR), compared self-reported sexual experiences related to use of alcohol and marijuana. Since marijuana has increased in popularity in the U.S., the researchers examined if and how marijuana use may influence risk for unsafe sexual behavior.

"With marijuana becoming more accepted in the U.S. along with more liberal state-level policies," notes Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, an affiliate of CDUHR and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC), "it is important to examine users' sexual experiences and sexual risk behavior associated with use to inform prevention and harm reduction."

In this study, the researchers interviewed 24 adults (12 males and 12 females, all self-identified as heterosexual and HIV-negative) who recently used marijuana before sex. Compared to marijuana, alcohol use was more commonly associated with social outgoingness and use often facilitated connections with potential sexual partners; however, alcohol was more likely than marijuana to lead to atypical partner choice or post-sex regret.

Alcohol was commonly used as a social lubricant to meet sexual partners, and this was related, in part, to alcohol being readily available in social gatherings.

"Interestingly, some users reported that the illegality of marijuana actually facilitated sexual interactions," notes Dr. Palamar. "Since smoking marijuana recreationally is illegal in most states and smoking it tends to produce a strong odor, it usually has to be used in a private setting. Some individuals utilize such private or intimate situations to facilitate sexual encounters".

While users often described favorable sexual effects of each drug, both alcohol and marijuana were reportedly associated with a variety of negative sexual effects including sexual dysfunction. For example, marijuana use was linked to vaginal dryness and alcohol was commonly described as increasing the likelihood of impotence among males.

The researchers noted that the sexual effects tended to be similar across males and females, and both alcohol and marijuana were generally associated with loss of inhibitions. Both drugs appear to be potentially associated with increased feelings of self-attractiveness, but possibly more so for alcohol, and participants reported feelings of increased sociability and boldness while consuming alcohol.

While some participants reported that marijuana use made them more selective in choosing a partner, many participants-- both male and female--felt that their "standards" for choosing a partner were lowered while under the influence of alcohol.

"It wasn't surprising that alcohol use reportedly led to less post-sex satisfaction than marijuana," said Dr. Palamar. "Participants reported feelings of regret more frequently after sex on alcohol, but compared to alcohol they generally didn't report poor judgment after using marijuana."

When smoking marijuana, participants tended to reported increased feelings of anxiety or a sense of wariness in unfamiliar situations that they did not generally seem to experience after using alcohol. Therefore, these drugs appear to have different effects with regard to socialization that may precede a sexual encounter.

"Sexual encounters on marijuana tended to be with someone the individual knew," comments Dr. Palamar. "Sex on alcohol was often with a stranger so the situation before sex may be much more important than the drug used."

Marijuana and alcohol are associated with unique sexual effects, with alcohol use reportedly leading to riskier sexual behavior. Both drugs appear to potentially increase risk for unsafe sex.

"Research is needed continue to study sexual effects of recreational drugs to inform prevention to ensure that users and potential users of these drugs are aware of sexual effects associated with use," emphasizes Dr. Palamar. "Our results can inform prevention and harm reduction education especially with regard to marijuana, since people who smoke marijuana generally don't receive any harm reduction information at all. They're pretty much just told not to use it."

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Millennials less sexually active than Gen-X peers




Since time immemorial, older generations have fretted over the sexual habits of young people. In today's world, however, elders might just be wondering why young people are having so little sex, according to a new study by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean M. Twenge.

A research team also including Ryne Sherman from Florida Atlantic University and Brooke Wells from Widener University analyzed data from 26,707 respondents to the General Social Survey, a nationally representative survey of U.S. adults that includes members of the current millennial generation and its predecessor, Generation X. The researchers found that today's young people are less likely to have had sex since turning 18.

According to Twenge, author of the book "Generation Me," 15 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds born in the 1990s reported having no sexual partners since age 18, compared to only 6 percent of Generation X'ers when they were young adults. This sexual inactivity stands in stark contrast to the so-called "hookup culture" reportedly pervasive among Millennials: More are not having sex at all, much less hooking up with multiple partners.

"Online dating apps should, in theory, help Millennials find sexual partners more easily," she said. "However, technology may have the opposite effect if young people are spending so much time online that they interact less in person, and thus don't have sex."

Concerns over personal safety and a media landscape saturated with reports of collegiate sexual abuse might also contribute to millennials' sexual inactivity compared to previous generations, Twenge continued.

"This generation is very interested in safety, which also appears in their reduced use of alcohol and their interest in 'safe spaces' on campus," she said. "This is a very risk-averse generation, and that attitude may be influencing their sexual choices."

Other factors contributing to fewer millennials having sex could include the widespread availability of pornography, the historically high number of young adults living with their parents, the later age at first marriage, and increased access to instant entertainment online. The researchers published their findings this week in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

Today's teens also appear to be less sexually active. According to the Centers for Disease Control's Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the percentage of U.S. high school students who have ever had sex dropped from 51 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015.

"This generation appears to be waiting longer to have sex, with an increasing minority apparently waiting until their early twenties or later," said Twenge. "It's good news for sexual and emotional health if teens are waiting until they are ready. But if young adults forgo sex completely, they may be missing out on some of the advantages of an adult romantic relationship."