Addiction isn’t the only dangerous side effect of teen drug use. Study after study shows that teenagers who abuse drugs and alcohol have a higher risk of acquiring an STD, or a sexually transmitted disease. For instance, the results of a survey published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research showed a higher-than-average rate of alcohol abuse in teens being treated for STDs at a public health clinic. Out of 671 young adults ages 15 to 24 who were surveyed, 48 percent of males and nearly 40 percent of females reported binge drinking. Both males and females reported that they were more likely to engage in unprotected sex.
High-Risk Sexual Behaviors
According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, a study of teens abusing crack cocaine in San Francisco showed that over 60 percent displayed at least one of the following high-risk sexual behaviors:
- Having sex with multiple partners
- Having unprotected sex
- Having sex while intoxicated with drugs or alcohol
- Having sex in exchange for drugs or money
Why does drug use increase the risk of acquiring an STD? Drugs and alcohol impair judgment, making teens more likely to make dangerous decisions about sexual activity. In addition, the need to finance an addiction can drive teens into transactional sex, or the exchange of sexual favors for drugs or cash. Getting a teen into treatment for substance abuse can help reduce the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease or of transmitting an STD to someone else.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that teens between the ages of 15 to 19 have a higher risk of contracting an STD than adults over the age of 24. No parent likes to think about the possibility of their teen being exposed to STDs, much less experiencing devastating consequences like infertility, cancer or death. But if you suspect that your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol, you should take a hard look at the possibility that he is at high risk of having unsafe sex.
A nationwide study of sexual behavior in teens published in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health revealed that in 2000, close to 19 million Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 acquired a new STD. Out of these cases, the most common STDs were the human papilloma virus (HPV), trichomoniasis and chlamydia. Other STDs found in the adolescent population include genital herpes, genital warts, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. While some of these conditions are easily treated, others can leave their deadly mark for a lifetime.
Disturbingly, most STDs do not produce noticeable symptoms in the early stages. This means that teenagers with multiple partners can quickly transmit an STD to others before they perceive a need to get treatment. Young people who are abusing drugs are less likely to be aware of their health or to seek treatment for symptoms like genital itching or discharge.
Getting a Teen Into Treatment
The sooner a young man gets treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, the less likely he is to take dangerous risks with sex. Professional treatment centers for teens offer intervention services for families whose lives have been devastated by substance abuse. At Muir Wood, an exclusive recovery center in Northern California, we provide individually tailored rehab services to help teenage boys get their lives back on track. If you’re ready to reach out for help, we’re here to listen. Call us anytime for information and support.