Substance Use and Sexual Risk Behaviors Among Teens

Adolescence is a stage of life that begins in biology and ends in society. Adolescence is the time in a person's life when the majority of their biological, cognitive, psychological, and social features change from infantile to adult-like. This era is a tremendous struggle for the adolescent, requiring adjustment to changes in the self, the family, and the peer group. Adolescents in modern society are subject to institutional changes as well. Adolescence is a difficult time in one's life. An adolescent goes through a lot of changes during this period, both physically and chemically. Adolescents' life changes tremendously as their hormone levels rise or their mental process shift, and so does their social life. The teenager must deal with these changes simultaneously, which may be incredibly difficult.

What is Substance Use and Sexual Risk?

Substance Abuse of over-the-counter or prescription medications. Substance use can lead to problems at work, school, home, or interpersonal relationships. Adolescents use alcohol and drugs for various reasons, including curiosity, pleasure, stress relief, and the desire to appear mature. Teenagers are unhappy and self-conscious.

Those with a family history of substance misuse are more likely to have a major alcoholic and drug problem. Experimentation leads to habits, excesses, and, eventually, addiction. Parents may assist by providing early drug education, open communication, positive role modeling, and early detection of growing problems. Teachers can also create helpful conditions for personality shaping and development.

Sexuality is an essential component of human life and survival. It may promote closeness, connecting, and shared enjoyment in our relationships. It meets various personal and societal requirements, and we appreciate the sexual aspect of our existence for the joys and advantages it provides. Although adolescent sexual behavior can be dangerous, it is also a normal stage of human growth. However, some sexual practices are considered sexual risk behaviors because they put people at higher risk for pregnancy and STDs. These consist of the following−

  • Early beginning of sexual activity − The likelihood of engaging in additional sexual risk behaviors rises with early sexual experience.

  • Sexual activity that occurs without the use of a condom or with its incorrect use during vaginal, anal, or oral contact − When used properly, condoms are very effective, but many young people lack the skills and understanding required.

  • Multiple sexual partners − Having numerous partners raises the risk of exposure to STDs and HIV, along with irregular condom use. Multiple sexual partners are linked to higher substance use and other dangerous sexual practices.

Why are Teenagers most susceptible?

In adolescence, taking risks is usual and expected. Adolescence is the stage of life when people take the most risks overall. Adolescents may emphasize the rewards that could follow from taking a specific risk while recognizing or even overestimating the possibility that an action would cause harm. Adolescents may be less sensitive to feeling the negative effects of substance use, such as hangovers, and are still growing in their ability to make wise decisions and exercise self-control. They are also more receptive to risk rewards, such as peer approval.

Risk-taking does not necessarily result in bad things happening, and Risk-taking helps us evolve to some extent. Young people must take risks to explore and build their identities, social status, and love connections, among other adolescent activities, as B. Bradford Brown has noted. Taking risks can result in tangible advantages like a solid sense of self, genuine friendships, and love. Risk can also help teenagers grow more resilient since it teaches them to use their resources and strengths when faced with obstacles.

Although taking risks might be considered a vital component of teenage development, there are clear risks involved. Young people's morbidity and mortality are more closely linked to risky activities than illnesses. Some young people may be more susceptible than others to the negative effects of particular hazards; for instance, a genetic predisposition raises the possibility that drug experimentation will lead to addiction. When youth face many risk factors (conditions that may result in poor consequences) without compensating resources or protective variables, they are more likely to participate in multiple risk behaviors.

Researchers have provided numerous explanations for the connection between certain sexual risk behaviors and substance use. Drug use may lower inhibitions when drug use and sexual risk-taking coexist (Santelli et al., 2004). Some young people might think that drugs, such as methamphetamine, make sex pleasurable. Serious drug use can cause erroneous perceptions of risk, impaired judgment, and cognition.

However, if attention is only paid to a teen's choice to use drugs and have sex, important factors are overlooked. When youth are exposed to a majority of risk factors without the opposing forces of positive opportunities, connections, and resources, they are more prone to engage in a wide range of risky behaviors.

Risk Factors

Some common underlying characteristics that may predispose young people to substance use and sexual risk behaviors are shared by both behaviors. To help identify young people who are most at risk, it is crucial to determine whether precursors can be identified early because substance use clusters with other risk behaviors. The following are typical risk factors for substance abuse and sexually risky behaviors−

  • Extreme economic hardship (poor, overcrowding)

  • A history of problematic conduct in the family

  • Issues with family conflict and management

  • Association with substance-using friends

  • Alienation and rebelliousness

  • Favorable parental views toward the issue conduct and parental involvement in the problem behavior

  • Lack of positive parent engagement

Teenage Pregnancy

Adolescence is a fast physical development that leads to sexual maturation and a desire for personal connections. Emerging sexuality during this period may lead to sexual behaviors such as intercourse that lead to pregnancy. However, teenage pregnancy is discouraged in nations with a minimum marriage age, such as India. Despite access to schooling and biological science being part of the core curriculum until the secondary level, adolescent pregnancy is rising.

Most youths in cities are completely aware of their alternatives and are well prepared to arrive in time for an abortion. This calls into doubt the premise that issues such as a lack of contraceptive knowledge, a lack of sex education, and poverty are the primary causes of growing adolescent births. If intelligent and well-informed people see abortion as a simple answer to the "problem of pregnancy," the matter must be taken seriously.

Abstinence is aided by knowledge and wisdom, but the latter may diminish with intoxicating drugs. The easy availability of abortion pills, pregnancy termination services, and changing socio-cultural ethos due to media and peer pressure may also contribute to the shedding of age-old inhibitions and overcoming the societal stigma associated with premarital sex and pregnancy. According to the researchers, traditional prohibitions against sex before marriage are balanced by permissive attitudes expressed in the media.

Management of Substance Abuse

Management of addicted people is the duty of the society to which they belong. In our community, there may be many addicts who truly wish to be free of their addiction. Addicts must seek therapy. Substance abuse therapy aims to identify and motivate substance abusers to seek treatment. Treatment seeks to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and assist the individual in achieving and maintaining abstinence.

It also seeks to cure problems, improve social and psychological functioning, and avoid relapse. Strong motivation and consistent therapy are required. Social support and family member engagement in therapy are critical components of drug misuse treatment. Clients are taught non-drug strategies for releasing stress and improving their self-image.

Link Between Substance Use and Sexual Risk Behaviors

Firstly, teens are seen combining sex and drugs. While many sexually active teens do not appear to use drugs during sex, many young people combine sex with drugs. In the year before the poll, approximately 38% of sexually active students in Canada's Atlantic provinces engaged in unintentional anal or vaginal sex while using drugs, according to a comprehensive study of these students. Studies have shown links between substance use and early sexual initiation. Alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, and addictive substances like cigarettes are among the substances that have been linked to early sexual initiation.

These results have been consistent in middle, high, and out-of-school youths. Some studies have also shown links between substance use and sexual intercourse without/ improper protection use in the youth population. However, results are not fully replicable in all people, vary with substances, and have not been fully established. Studies have also suggested an association between having multiple sexual partners and substance use.


Teenagers deal with constant exposure to a substance and sexual content. Being in a vulnerable age group, they are likely to engage in risk-taking behavior, consume substances, and engage in risky sexual behaviors. They need to be properly educated about the downfalls of both. Sex education should be provided to teenagers, so they learn to engage in sexual activities safely, and they should be helped to understand the ill effects of substances. Peers, parents, teachers, and the community can play a huge role in teenagers' actions; hence, all programs to help teens avoid these behaviors should have active involvement.

Updated on: 12-Apr-2023


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