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Risky Sexual Behavior and Substance Use Among Teens

April 20, 2001

An article in the March issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, examines the relationship of teen substance use and dependence to sexual risk-taking behavior in late adolescents and young adulthood.

Researchers recruited adolescents who had been inpatients at alcohol and drug treatment centers in the San Diego area. Researchers then recruited a controlled group of adolescents who had not had drug or alcohol problems from nearby communities.

Participants completed self-assessment surveys at the time of recruitment and then again at two, four, and six year intervals. Results are based on complete data collected from 105 treated teens and 77 community teens (ages 15 to 21) between 1987 and 1992.


Results

Two-Year Follow-Up

Sexual Behavior

Condom/Contraception Use

Pregnancy

Four-Year Follow-Up

Sexual Behavior

Condom/Contraception Use

Pregnancy

Six-Year Follow-Up

Sexual Behavior

Condom/Contraception Use

Pregnancy


STD/HIV

The study found that youth treated for substance use disorders were significantly more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behaviors, both during adolescence and as they transitioned into young adulthood. The results show that adolescents treated for substance problems evidenced an early onset of sexual activity, more sexual partners, and less consistent use of condoms compared to their non-treated community peers. However, the disparity between the treated and non-treated groups diminished with time.

The authors note that treatment for substance use disorders usually focuses primarily on cessation of substance use, with less concern for other important issues that may affect coping and adjustment after treatment ends. The authors suggest "addressing these issues as part of treatment may effectively improve adolescent outcomes across critical life domains." They emphasize that continuity of care and continued monitoring of risky sexual behaviors are needed for substance abusing youth, as these risks persist long after treatment.

For more information: S. F. Tapert, et al., "Adolescent Substance Use and Sexual Risk-Taking Behavior," Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 181-89.




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