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Substance abuse hiking STD rate in British kids

Increasing consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs among teenagers and young adults is fueling soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases in Britain, health experts warn.
/ Source: Reuters

Increasing consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs among teenagers and young adults is fueling soaring rates of sexually transmitted diseases in Britain, health experts warn.

"Young people are three times as likely to have sex that is unprotected when they are drunk than when sober," said a report from the government's Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV.

It called for coordinated action across government to reduce alcohol and drug abuse among young people.

Britain has the highest rate of sexual infections and under-18 conceptions in Europe.

Cases of chlamydia have increased by 300 percent over the past 12 years, with gonorrhea up 200 percent, HIV by 300 percent and syphilis by 2,000 percent.

"We applaud the various awareness campaigns for young people around sex, drugs and alcohol but they are not enough in isolation," said the group's chairwoman, Baroness Gould.

"Alcohol is a sexual health problem as one of the key negative outcomes of drinking is problems with sexual health," said Professor Mark Bellis of Liverpool John Moores University in a study contained in the report.

Bellis, head of the university's Centre for Public Health, said drink and drugs were "fuel for a sexual heath crisis," with reduced inhibitions reducing the likelihood of precautions such as condoms being worn during sex.

Many young people were taking recreational drugs such as ecstasy, cannabis and amphetamines as aphrodisiacs, he said.

A study of homosexual men conducted after an outbreak of syphilis in Manchester found that 65 percent of those with syphilis and HIV were users of the drug GHB.

Only 20 percent without infections used the drug.

"We found that people knew their sexual behavior was unsafe and they used the drugs to help them forget about the sexual health concerns and enable them just to have a good time," said Bellis.

The report noted that in a single act of unprotected sex with an infected partner, adolescent girls have a one percent chance of acquiring HIV, 30 percent chance of getting genital herpes and a 50 percent chance of contracting gonorrhea.