During the holiday season, drinking is almost always a given. It’s easy to say that you can handle your liquor or you know your limitations, but drinking has been known to impair your judgment—sometimes even before the actual drinking begins. And according to a study published in the journal Addiction, one particular lapse in judgment that becomes more likely as you consume more alcohol is engaging in unprotected sex.
Researchers from Canada wanted to find out which came first: the drinking or the questionable behavior. Analyzing 12 experiments where participants were randomly instructed to drink or not drink and then interviewing them about their decisions to have sex, researchers discovered that those who did drink were more likely to engage in unsafe sex than those who didn’t. In fact, an increase of 0.1 mg/mL in blood alcohol level already raises the chances of the participants saying yes to unprotected sex by 5 percent. Considering that the blood alcohol limit in the US is 0.8 mg/mL, this shows just how much it raises the likelihood of making poor decisions.
However, the researchers were out to dig up information for a bigger cause. Unplanned pregnancy aside, what they really wanted to do was figure out how significant an impact drinking has on unsafe sex and HIV infection. Despite the number of campaigns on the subject matter, people are still swayed to practice risky sex because they’ve had something to drink, which in turn, puts their health in danger.
According to principal investigator Juergen Rehm of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, "drinking has a causal effect on the likelihood to engage in unsafe sex, and thus should be included as a major factor in preventive efforts for HIV." It’s no longer enough to simply say use condoms and practice safe sex. By targeting the factors which lead to the poor decision-making in the first place, efforts to contain HIV infection might actually work.
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For more on safe sex, check out these stories:
(Photo by Justin Ornellas via Flickr Creative Commons)