It’s fairly common for people to sometimes have sex under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Whether or not you and your partners have sex after drinking or using drugs is up to you. There are lots of factors to consider when combing drugs or alcohol with sex, so taking the time to learn about these can help you make an informed decision that you feel good about.
People may feel a variety of ways about combining sex with drug or alcohol use. It’s important to only have sex that you and your partner both feel really good about having. It’s especially necessary to understand and respect each other if you’re using substances that might change how you make decisions! You should also never, ever have sex with anyone who is too impaired to clearly tell you “yes” or “no”.
How could drugs or alcohol affect my sex life?
Not everyone is affected by drugs or alcohol in the same way. Some people feel certain effects that others may not. Different amounts of drugs or alcohol can affect people differently too! Sometimes, an amount of alcohol that would make someone else feel drunk will not do the same thing for another person. This is often referred to as “tolerance”. For example, a person with a high tolerance for drugs or alcohol may take more than others in order to feel the effects.
If you’ve experimented with drugs or alcohol before, you may have some awareness of what your tolerance is like already. If you haven’t, it can be a good idea to try to get a sense of that before you combine those things with sex. Not all drugs work the same way, so it’s safer not to assume that if you have a high tolerance for one type of drug, you’ll also have a high tolerance for another.
People who like combing sex with drugs or alcohol may do so for a number of reasons. Some people like the way that drugs or alcohol make them feel when they’re having sex. Like any sexual activity, though, combining sex with drugs or alcohol can carry some risks. Some potential risks of having sex under the influence include:
- Having a harder time communicating clearly with your partner
- Forgetting to use safer sex techniques that you usually use, or using them less well
- Having problems with sexual performance, like difficulty getting aroused
Is it okay to have sex with my partner when one or both of us is drunk or high?
Whether or not you and your partner are comfortable having sex under the influence can be a personal choice. It’s always a good idea to talk about this when you and your partner are both sober! Establishing boundaries and limits when you can both talk about it clearly can help you know what you’re both into.
It is NEVER okay to have sex with someone when they are too drunk or high to clearly say whether or not they want to have sex. Any sexual activity that’s done without a person’s consent is sexual assault. If your partner is:
- Not speaking clearly enough to be understood
- Spacey or “out of it”
- Not aware of what’s going on around them
- Unable to do basic things like walking without assistance
It’s not ok to have sex with them. Instead, you can ask if they’re okay, and if they need it, help them get home or to bed safely.
How can I practice safer sex while using drugs or alcohol?
There are a number of things you can do to have safer sex while using drugs or alcohol. Some of these things include:
- If you’re injecting drugs, use clean needles and equipment, and try not to share needles with other people. Sharing needles is considered a high risk for giving or getting HIV and other blood-borne viruses, like Hepatitis C.
- If you’re snorting drugs, try not to share straws with other people. Sharing straws can increase your risk of giving or getting Hepatitis C.
- Try to use drugs or alcohol in moderation. With certain drugs, it can be hard to know how strong they are, especially if you’re getting them from a source you’re not familiar with. Start with smaller doses- remember, you can always take more, but you can’t take less than what you’ve already taken!
- If you’re planning on having sex under the influence, try to be prepared! Have lube on hand, as well as whatever safer sex materials you need, like condoms, gloves, or dental dams.
- It can help to get tested for STIs and know your status. There are lots of places to get tested for free. Some places also offer anonymous testing. For more on getting tested, see the resources below.
- Talk to your partner or partners before you get started. It can be good to talk about what you are and aren’t into before you have sex. This is true even if you’re not using drugs or alcohol! Talking beforehand can also help you recognize warning signs in case you get too drunk or high. This can make it easier for you or your partner(s) to know how to make you feel good, and when to stop.
I’m worried about my own drinking or drug use. What should I do?
Lots of people use drugs or alcohol (and sometimes both!) recreationally. It’s very common for people to experiment with drugs or alcohol. It’s also common for people to use these things with friends or partners.
If you’re having a hard time controlling your own drug or alcohol use, it can be helpful to talk to a doctor or someone you trust. Substance abuse affects lots of people, and can sometimes look very different from what we think of when we think about “addiction”! Talking to someone about it can be scary, but it’s okay to ask for help. There are many different ways of dealing with substance abuse and addiction. You deserve to be able to get the support you need and make decisions for yourself and your body that feel right to you.
For more info on drugs, alcohol, and safer sex, check out the resources below.
Health Initiative for Men (HIM): I Use Drugs While Having Sex (PnP)
Safer sex strategies for men who have sex with men while using drugs.
CATIE: Using Drugs While Having Sex
Part of CATIE’s practical guide to safer sex, covers some basic techniques for safer drug use.
Scarleteen’s page on navigating consent.
Can alcohol decrease the pill’s effectiveness? – Ask Alice
This resource explains that while alcohol doesn’t decrease the effectiveness of the pill, it can lead to some actions that can.
Sexual Assault – Sex & U
Information about sexual assault, what to do if you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, and how to look after your safety while using drugs or alcohol.
Understanding Addiction: A Primer on Drugs, Drug Use, and Drug Dependence
A harm-reduction approach to substance abuse and addiction.