Home  Articles  Knowledge of HIV Articles  Alcohol, Drugs, Sex and Youth

Alcohol, Drugs, Sex and Youth

According to surveys, many teens and young adults are drinking alcohol and taking drugs for sexual purposes. Further, these studies note that sexual activity accompanied by substance use is not just incidental, but often sexually motivated. Thus, youth drink alcohol to increase their chances of sex, and take cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis to enhance sexual arousal or prolong sex. As a result, drugs and drink alter the sexual decisions youth make, which in turn, increase their chances of unsafe sex or sex that is later regretted. During our interaction with youth trainers at training programs conducted in Punjab University, we found that such notions are widely prevalent in our area as well.


As young people often see alcohol, drugs and sex, as part of the same social experience, addressing these issues requires an equally joined-up approach. Consequently, as a concerned social hand, working with the youth in my state, I am planning to conduct a more detailed survey followed by a comprehensive training and advocacy program on a larger scale. Therefore, I am specifically looking out for help from the members of the Solution Exchange AIDS Community for information on:

  • Interventions addressing sexual health which are developed, managed and implemented together with those addressing substance use,
  • Strategies that were successful in reducing drug use and sex among youth, as well as,
  • Interventions or strategies that failed and reasons thereof.
  • There is no doubt that this is a very important area that we in the AIDS Community had not discussed so far. It's importance is vouched by the quote:

    About 5% of all deaths of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are attributable to alcohol use (FACT SHEET, School Health and Youth Health Promotion - WHO, 2001). AIDS remains a leading cause of death worldwide among people ages 15-24. (KFF, 2002; Malow, Devieux, Jennings, Lucenko, & Kalichman, 2001). Literature suggests that HIV prevention programmes for youth should also focus on alcohol abuse and other drug abuse as well as sexual risk behavior (Fuller, Vlahov, Ompad, Shah, Arria, & Strathdee 2002)."

  • In our state and this holds true for the country, it is easier for youth to obtain prescription drugs than getting beer or other drugs. Some of the young people even found tranquilizers like Alprex and Diazepam at home, which are prescribed to their parents or guardians by the doctor.
  • Youth leave the house on school nights to hang out with their friends and most of them come home after 11 P.M. because they have been drinking alcohol, smoking or taking drugs. Young people also reported that when they found their houses vacant in the noontime they have used it for such activities as both the parents are working.
  • Hence, it is time for parents to look within and ask themselves if they are doing the essential parenting that would help their child negotiate the difficult youth years free of tobacco, alcohol, drugs and sex.

    The project has several components, including a co-curricular school programme for classes 6 - 12, a mass media campaign with the slogan 'I Decide' and a peer led approach to reach out to young people in the North Eastern States.

    alcohol Youth

    The project or campaign focuses on empowering young people with the correct information on substance or drug use, abuse as also helping them to build certain life skills such as communication, negotiation and decision making skills. It stays away from a 'moralistic' approach, appealing instead to the sense of logic of youngsters, and prepares them to handle tricky peer pressure and other situations in which they would be likely to indulge in substance use or unsafe sexual activities. It also appeals to parents, teachers and community influencers to know more about these issues and talk to children and youth openly about them.

    So far, the programme has been very well received by the schools, across all major faiths, and adult members of the community alike. In fact, there has been a consistency in the manner in which people have welcomed the programme, admitting that there is a problem which needs to be addressed through such initiatives. In our experience, the project has been able to increase knowledge and awareness levels, but it is too soon to assess behaviour change yet. We'd be happy to share any additional information you might need.

    The query is aptly posed but requires sensitive participation. While discussing, it is important that

  • We do not make a sweeping generalization. We have to be guarded as solution exchange is a community of serious scholars and committed workers who formulate their arguments on the basis of substantial empirical evidence.
  • As done in the query, we must have a scientific assessment of the number of young boys and girls, who have opportunities for this kind of experimenting with drugs and exploring sex.
  • While designing interventions, or referring to them, we must specify what socio-economic groups we are addressing.
  • Only to substantiate the query, the scenario of addressing a small subsection of students coming from urban middle class households in which both parents are working and provide enough space to their children for indulging in unguided behavior, has been quoted. Whether similar behaviour among the youth is prevalent in other socio-economic groups, rural areas, localities must be explored.
  • There is no denying that teachers in city colleges in Chandigarh and parents in a very modern city often fail to discuss safe sex behavior with their children.
  • There is also no denying that consumption of alcohol in particular by adolescent boys has a silent social approval. Many young girls in the city are now seen sitting in city's bars and can also be seen buying liquor at Taverns. However, the social acceptability is relatively low for them.
  • According to the surveys quoted in the query, we could say that a percentage of the boys and girls who consume alcohol and drugs do so to experiment with sex.
  • To put the argument in perspective - the possibilities of unsafe sex are decidedly higher under the influence of alcohol as also under drugs and there is urgent need to study it with a scientific methodology. Hypothetically speaking, there is likely to be significant variation from one locality to another. I am using locality here to refer to geographical spaces, different academic communities of students across the country, different socio-economic, religious and linguistic groups. Local factors are most important determinants of such behavior.