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Alcohol, drugs and sex

When we get drunk or high we take risks, including sexual risks. 

There are simple things you can do to protect your sexual health when you are drinking alcohol or taking drugs.  

If you're worried you've put your sexual health at risk don’t panic, the best thing to do is to test for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

If you are struggling to control your drinking or drug taking, help is available. 

What are the risks of mixing alcohol, drugs and sex?

You may end up doing things you wouldn’t normally do, like forgetting to use a condom or engaging in some risky sexual activities. 

This increases your risk of STIs, including HIV

Remember – if you pass out or are ‘out of it’ and someone still has sex with you, you have not been able to give your consent. This is not ok and it’s never your fault. If this has happened to you, talk to someone to get support. 


How can I enjoy alcohol safely?

If you drink alcohol, these are some simple things you can do to stay safe: 

  • be aware what is a safe amount to drink – recommendations on this vary around the world, but an average guideline is that women should drink no more than 12 standard drinks a week and men should drink no more than 18  

  • eat before you start drinking 

  • drink water with your alcoholic drink 

  • limit how much you drink – try swapping between a soft drink and an alcoholic one while you’re out 

  • never accept a drink from someone you don’t know or trust. 

How can I stay safe while taking drugs? 

If you decide to take drugs there are things you can do to reduce your risk of HIV and other STIs:  

  • always use clean needles and equipment when injecting drugs and don’t let someone else inject you  

  • if snorting drugs, avoid sharing notes or straws 

  • take a small amount of drugs at a time, as it’s hard to know how strong they are. 

What things can I do to stay in control?

f you know you are going to drink alcohol or take drugs, decide beforehand what sexual things you are and are not comfortable doing – and remind yourself of this later on. And try to make sure you’re with people you trust, who won’t pressure you into doing risky things in the first place. 

If you are meeting someone you met online, or if you leave a party or bar with someone, always tell a friend. They can check up on you if they don’t hear from you, and it also sends a signal to the person you are with that people know where you are.  

If you decide to have sex, choose the right protection for you. Remember – the pill won’t protect you from an STI or HIV, and PrEP will only prevent HIV, not other STIs. A condom is the only way to prevent HIV, STIs and pregnancy. 

How do I know if my drug taking or drinking is harmful?

Here are some signs to look out for: 

  • you keep taking dangerous risks  

  • it’s becoming hard to do everyday things, like go to school or work  

  • you’re finding it difficult to manage your moods 

  • you have a strong desire to take drugs or drink and find it difficult to control your use 

  • you have physical and mental symptoms when not taking drugs or drinking alcohol. 

If I think I have a problem with drugs or alcohol what should I do?

Try not to be hard on yourself – lots of people experience this and there is lots of help out there. Talk to somebody about how you’re feeling: friends, family, a helpline or a healthcare professional.  

You may need help to stop drinking or taking drugs. If this is the case, a healthcare professional will be able to help you. They may recommend counselling, therapy or a support group.  

If you are taking opioids like heroin, they might also prescribe medication to help you stop taking drugs and to manage your withdrawal symptoms. Your medication will be monitored and can be slowly reduced when it is safe.  

Let's talk about helping someone with a problem with drugs or alcohol!

Here are a few questions to help kick-off discussions on the issues you need to talk about! You can share them on social, on WhatsApp or just get talking.

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If someone is struggling to control their drug taking or drinking, how can I help them?

If you are concerned about someone’s drug taking or drinking, it can be hard to know what to do. The first step it to try talking to them in a non-judgemental way. Here are some things to think about before you do. 

  • Think about what you are going to say before you start the conversation. 

  • Do not judge! Try to listen and stay calm. 

  • Find the right moment. Avoid talking to the person when they are drunk or high. 

  • Don’t be put off if they react badly. Stop the conversation if it gets heated. Give them space to think about what you’ve said then return to the conversation another time. 

  • Make sure you know what support is available so you can tell them about it if they are ready to listen.  

  • You could offer to go with them to a healthcare appointment if they are ready to take this step. 

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Next: How to protect yourself from HIV

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  • Last updated: 31 March 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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