Illicit drug use is associated with risky sexual behaviors in adolescents and young adults. However, few studies have examined these associations among drug users of all reproductive ages, using a control group of nonusers.
Associations between marijuana and cocaine use, and outcomes related to sexual behaviors and reproductive health, were assessed using data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. Overall, 4,928 men and 7,643 women aged 15–44 were interviewed. Chi-square tests, t tests and multivariable logistic regression analyses were used; in supplementary analyses, men and women were stratified by age-group (25 or younger, and older than 25), to capture the understudied older adults who use drugs.
Twenty-seven percent of men and 16% of women reported use of marijuana or cocaine in the last year. Drug users were younger than nonusers at first vaginal sex (mean, 15.2–16.1 vs. 17.3–17.5 years) and were more likely to have engaged in risky sexual behaviors in the last year, including having had sex with a nonmonogamous partner (odds ratios, 3.3–5.2 for men and 2.9–6.5 for women), while high on alcohol or drugs (10.1–18.0 and 8.1–24.2), or in exchange for money or drugs (2.7–2.8 and 2.3–9.2). They also were more likely to have undergone STD testing or treatment. Drug use was associated with risky sexual behaviors in both age-groups.
Programs aimed at reducing sexual risks among drug users should address the behaviors of men and women of all reproductive ages.
Marleen M.H.J. van Gelder is a doctoral candidate, and Nel Roeleveld is associate professor, both in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and HTA, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Jennita Reefhuis is senior epidemiologist, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta. Anne M. Herron is division director, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD. Mark L. Williams is professor, Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.