Binge drinking women often engage in risky sex

According to new research from the U.S., women who binge drink are more likely to indulge in unsafe sex.

The researchers from John Hopkins University Medical School in Baltimore say their research has revealed that binge drinking, apart from the more obvious negative outcomes, also increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and this is more so in the case of women.

The researchers say binge drinkers, defined as having more than five drinks at one time, are more likely to indulge in unsafe sexual practices such as multiple partners and anal sex and that both binge drinking and risky sexual behaviours are more hazardous to women than men.

For their study the researchers analyzed the data collected from 671 STD patients being evaluated or treated at a clinic of whom 322 were men and 349 females.

The participants were asked a range of questions about their recent alcohol/drug use and risky sexual behaviours using an audio computer-assisted-self interview technology.

According to Dr. Heidi E. Hutton, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences, the study showed that binge drinking among women STD-clinic patients was associated with certain risky sexual behaviours.

Dr. Hutton says that women binge drinkers were three times more likely to have anal sex, and twice as likely to have multiple sex partners compared to women who do not drink alcohol. Women binge drinkers were also five times more likely to have gonorrhea as compared to non-drinking women.

Dr. Geetanjali Chander, an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, says that binge drinking results in a decreased ability to make clear decisions and can enable individuals to engage in behaviours that they would not if sober.

Dr. Hutton says the link between binge drinking and risky sexual behavior is complex and there are gender differences, and binge drinking increases the STD risk for women.

Dr Chander says while some drink to be less inhibited, less anxious or because they are depressed, expecting alcohol to alleviate their symptoms, many people fail to realise the potential risk or harm that may result from binge drinking.

Dr. Chander says gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease which reflects unsafe sexual practices and this association between binge drinking and high-risk sexual behaviours is especially important as risky behaviours are associated with HIV acquisition and transmission.

Dr. Hutton says that both binge drinking and risky sexual behaviors are more hazardous to women than men and when women and men consume the same amount of alcohol, women will have a higher concentration of alcohol in their system, and substantially greater alcohol-caused impairment than men.

Also anatomical differences mean women are at a greater risk than men of contracting some sexually transmitted infections - men transmit some infections to women more efficiently than women do to men - men are eight to 10 times more likely to transmit HIV to a female partner through repeated, unprotected sexual intercourse than women are to transmit the virus to men.

The researchers say the gender-specific association between binge drinking and risky behaviors shown in the study calls for more research and they suggest that STD clinics routinely screen for binge drinking.

The research is due to be published in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

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