Binge Drinking As A Risk Factor For STDs

Drinking 5 or more alcoholic beverages at one sitting is defined as binge drinking. This type of drinking is linked to risky sexual practices. Now, a new study has focused on the association between female binge drinkers and risky sexual behaviors. This study is unusual in that it attempts to examine the link between gender and STDs by studying the patients in one city clinic.

Unsafe Sex

The results of this study show that women who binge drink tend to indulge in unsafe sexual conduct—for instance enjoying multiple partners or engaging in anal sex—and also have higher rates for the sexually transmitted venereal disease known as gonorrhea. These results were published in the November 2008 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

One of the authors of this study, Heidi E. Hutton, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine comments that the association between binge drinking and taking sexual risks is complicated and involved many factors. In this particular study, the researchers were interested in discovering whether binge drinking increased risky sexual behavior and STD rates. Researchers determined that there were definite differences between men and women in drinking behavior and that binge drinking in women increased their risk for contracting STDs.

Geentanjali Chander, an assistant professor of medicine in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine comments, "Binge drinking results in a decreased ability to make clear decisions and can enable individuals to engage in behaviors that they would not if sober. Initially, some individuals may drink with the expectation of decreasing inhibitions, or some may drink because they are anxious, or depressed, and they expect alcohol to alleviate their symptoms."

Serious Harm

Chander explains that no matter why people binge drink, they don't realize that their drinking could cause them serious harm or make them vulnerable to serious diseases.

Researchers spoke to 795 patients at an STD clinic to ask them if they would be willing to answer questions about their drug and alcohol use and about their sexual behavior. The patients were at the clinic to be evaluated or treated for STDs. Of this number, 671 patients agreed to be interviewed. 322 of the participants were male and 349 female. The interviews were conducted with the aid of audio computer-assisted technology. Once the interviews were completed, researchers examined any possible association between binge drinking, sexual behavior, and STDs, taking into account age, drug use, and employment.

Risky Behavior

Hutton states that a clear link was found between female binge drinkers and specific unsafe sex practices. Women binge drinkers were three times more likely than the male binge drinkers to engage in anal sex. The women binge drinkers were two times as likely to have sex with multiple partners as were women who abstained from alcohol. The drinking women were five times more likely to contract gonorrhea.

Chander comments that Gonorrhea is an STD that by nature implies unsafe sexual practices. Proving the link between binge drinking and unsafe sexual behaviors is important because the same risky behaviors are associated with acquiring and transmitting HIV.

Hutton explains why binge drinking and unsafe sex practices are more dangerous for women, "If women and men consume the same dose of alcohol, women will have a higher concentration of alcohol in their system, and substantially greater alcohol-caused impairment than men. Furthermore, anatomical differences place women at greater risk than men of contracting some sexually transmitted infections."

Get more information about the many ways to risk contracting an STD in our STD forum.

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