Meth use fueling unsafe sex

A new study shows meth, a popular and relatively inexpensive street drug, increases the likelihood of unsafe sex.  Meth is a stimulant and hits the pleasure center of the brain, causing people to feel euphoric and, in many cases, it stimulates the sex drive.  Researchers believe their study shows a connection between meth and risky behavior.

The alarming stats
Researchers at Johns Hopkins said that nearly one-third of the 64 participants who reported recent meth use also reported sex with an HIV-infected person, while half reported sex with an injection drug user. More than half, 34, said they have had unprotected sex.

“Drug use is closely linked to risk-taking behaviors, including sexually risky behaviors, so any HIV prevention efforts must, by definition, include drug use prevention and treatment of those with known drug problems,” said senior investigator Jonathan Ellen, M.D., a pediatrician and adolescent health specialist at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

“Add meth and you have a formula that leads to increased sexual risk in a group that already has higher prevalence of HIV,” says study co-investigator Nancy Willard, M.S., a researcher at Johns Hopkins.

The popularity of meth
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Methamphetamine use among teens appears to have dropped significantly in recent years, according to data revealed by the 2009 Monitoring the Future survey. The number of high-school seniors reporting past-year use is now only at 1.2 percent, which is the lowest since questions about methamphetamine were added to the survey in 1999; at that time, it was reported at 4.7 percent.”

Unsafe sex, not just connected to meth
Any drug abuse, not just meth, can bump up the rates of risky behavior.  Participants who reported having used other hard drugs such as cocaine, crack, heroin and ecstasy, were more likely than non-drug users to have sex with HIV-infected partners as well.

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