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An Uncomfortable Truth: Drug Abuse Raises STD Rates

A new study claims that swingers play a major role in the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) but, in addition to the sex, it’s their drug abuse that is ultimately contributing to this increase.

Linking Drugs and STDs

Researchers at the STI Clinic of the South Limburg Public Health Service of the Netherlands interviewed 289 swingers between the years of 2009 and 2012. The swingers, according to the scientists, were defined as “heterosexuals who, as a couple, practice mate swapping or group sex, and/or visit sex clubs for couples.”

The researchers found that 48% of the swingers used recreational drugs while engaging in sex acts. And that number jumped up to 79% if alcohol and erectile dysfunction drugs were factored into the equation. The recreational substances commonly used by the group of swingers included marijuana, cocaine, MDMA and alkyl nitrates (poppers).

The scientists also discovered high rates of risky and unprotected sexual activities ran rampant amongst this population. Over half the participants had engaged in group sex over the last 6 months and half of that population had not used a condom. Half of those interviewed also reported not using a condom for vaginal sex.

Risky Behaviors

About 13% of the participants were diagnosed with STDs including chlamydia and gonorrhea. However, the researchers were only able to find an “independent association” between drug use and STIs among female swingers.

“High rates of multiple drug use, as well as risky sexual behavior and STDs among swingers, warrant paying more attention to this key population in prevention and care,” noted the authors. “They are a risk group that is generally under recognized and underserved in care.”

The findings of this study were recently published in the online journal Sexually Transmitted Infections.

Additional Research

In addition to the Netherlands’ research, several previous studies have also linked heavy alcohol consumption to an increase in risky sexual behavior and STDs. A recent report published in the same journal found that men who drank 9.9 grams or more of alcohol per day had a significantly higher rate of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The number of sexual partners they had did not have any correlation with the increase.

Women are equally prone to the STD issue. A separate research study published last September in the journal Epidemiology and Infection found that female drinkers were 3 times more likely than non-drinkers to test positive for HPV. It’s suggested that heavy alcohol consumption could weaken immune responses to HPV.

If you or someone you know struggles with drug or alcohol misuse, help is available and recovery is possible. American Addiction Centers (AAC) operates addiction treatment facilities across the country. You can contact a caring admissions navigator with AAC for free at for more information on rehab programs and treatment options.

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