Position Statement: Substance Abuse and Its Intersection with Sexual Behavior among Youth

Date: October 22, 2018

Healthy Teen Network understands that the teen years are a time of experimentation and risk taking and that this is normative behavior (Chick and Reyna, 2012). However some risk-taking behaviors can lead to highly morbid and even fatal outcomes and thus require prevention, early detection, and prompt treatment. Substance abuse and sexual risk-taking behaviors are such behaviors.

Recent data show substance use among teens is on the decline (NIDA, 2017), however, the types of substances being used and the current rise in deaths due to overdose bring this issue to the forefront. And while research is mixed, there does appear to be a correlation between substance use and risky sexual behavior (Clayton et al, 2016; Cavazos-Rehg et al, 2011). Sexual initiation is also on the decline (CDC, 2015), but a relationship between substance use and sexual risk-taking behaviors is likely. In fact, according to the 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 30% of youth ages 15-19 reported being sexually active and of those, 21% drank alcohol or used drugs before last intercourse (Kann et al, 2016).

To that end, we support the integration of evidence-based substance use screening tools (e.g., CRAFFT) that serve to educate, and identify substance use or risk factors related to such use into all clinical settings serving this population. Further we believe that evidence-based substance use education should be part of health education in middle and high school. We do not support universal drug screening in any setting. Finally, we encourage a holistic Youth 360° approach for treatment, as substance use and abuse is associated with and mitigated by a host of external factors, and research has shown that the most effective substance abuse treatment programs for youth are holistic in nature engaging adults and communities (Hawkins et al, 1992).

Healthy Teen Network shares position statements on relevant issues for young people as a resource to support your advocacy efforts. See more position statements here.

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Citation: Healthy Teen Network. (2018). Position statement: substance abuse and its intersection with sexual behavior among youth. Baltimore: Author. www.healthyteennetwork.org/resources/position-statement-substance-abuse-intersection-sexual-behavior-youth/


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