The Indirect Health Risks of Alcohol
Of all addictive substances, alcohol is the most commonly abused in the United States. People who misuse or become addicted to alcohol put their health at risk in more ways than one.
In addition to causing long-term health consequences, alcohol abuse can also increase one’s risk of developing a sexually transmitted disease. In fact, misuse of alcohol and other substances plays a major role in the spread of STDs.
The Connection between Alcohol and STDs
Alcohol is a substance that can cause severe impairment of personal judgment. Intoxication lowers one’s inhibitions and may cause a person to make decisions or take risks that he or she may otherwise have not.
For some, this may include engaging in unprotected sex or other high risk sexual behaviors such as sleeping with multiple partners or having sex in exchange for drugs or money.
Spreading STD’s and Alcohol Abuse
With 110 million Americans infected with an STD, the risk of contracting and spreading sexually transmitted diseases is high without practicing safe sex. This is especially true considering that many STDs do not produce noticeable symptoms in their early stages. This means that a person frequently intoxicated by alcohol may engage in unprotected sex or have multiple sex partners without knowing that he or she is spreading a disease.
Studies have consistently concluded that people with a history of alcohol abuse are more likely to have at least one sexually transmitted disease that those who have always been sober. People with substance use disorders are more likely to have low self-esteem, which may lead to a willingness to engage in promiscuous sexual activity.
Missing the Signs of an STD
They are also less likely to notice the signs of a sexually transmitted disease, prolonging the time before seeking treatment. In one study of 671 young adults treated at an STD clinic, 30 percent of women and 42 percent of men reported a history of binge drinking.
Researchers found distinct correlations between the rate of STDs and alcohol abuse in both men and women, including twice the rate of having multiple sex partners and a gonorrhea rate 5 times higher in binge-drinking women than abstainers. Furthermore, both men and women reported being more likely to have unprotected sex while intoxicated (Hutton 2008).
Some of the most common types of STDs include:
- Human papilloma virus (HPV)
- Genital warts
Though some diseases can be easily managed or treated, others can lead to a lifetime of serious health problems, including infertility and cancer. Some diseases, such as HIV and HPV, may even produce fatal outcomes.
Treatment for Alcoholism
Treatment is available for people who are dependent on alcohol. Recovering from alcoholism may not only lead to sobriety, but it may also reduce the risk of contracting or spreading an STD.
If you or someone you know has a history of alcohol abuse, do not wait to get treatment. The sooner a person seeks help, the lower his or her risk of contracting or spreading an STD.
Hutton, H., McCaul, M., Santora, P., Erbelding, E. (September 2008). The Relationship between Recent Alcohol Use and Sexual Behaviors.