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Alcohol consumption linked to rising levels of UK teenage STDs

The increase in drug and alcohol consumption by teenagers is directly correlated to a rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), according to a report by the UK government's Independent Advisory Group (IAG) on Sexual Health.

The increase in drug and alcohol consumption by teenagers is directly correlated to a rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), according to a report by the UK government's Independent Advisory Group (IAG) on Sexual Health.

The report says that high rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are related to the culture of drinking and drug-taking among the young. The IAG added that teenagers who engaged in risky sexual behaviour were at greater risk of becoming young parents, contracting an STI, failing at school, building up longer-term problems, as well as becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs.

The IAG also said that teenagers were also getting conflicting messages about sex, with companies still using sexually suggestive material to advertise alcohol, while heavy restrictions govern the advertising of condoms.

The report presents data showing that 40 per cent of children aged between 13 and 14 year were drunk or on drugs when they first had sex, while teenage girls were three times less likely to use condoms when they were drunk. A third of young people who binge-drink, take amphetamines, Ecstasy or cannabis said they used drugs to enhance their sex lives.

Professor Mark Bellis, who is head of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University Drugs and contributed to the report, said that cocaine, which can prolong sex, increase the likelihood of abrasions and disease.

According to Bellis, in a single act of unprotected sex with an infected partner, adolescent girls have a 50 per cent chance of contracting gonorrhoea, a 30 per cent chance of genital herpes and a one per cent chance of acquiring HIV.

Anne Weyman, a vice-chair on the independent advisory group and CEO of the FPA, said: "We need to look at it from young people's point of view. They see around them this culture of celebrities, in the newspapers, around sex and drugs, alcohol, all being brought together, and they're not being given alongside that the information and the education they need to handle issues like drugs and alcohol and sex as they're growing up."

The advisory group, funded by the Department of Health, claimed restrictions on advertising condoms on television and the lack of compulsory sex education in schools was making the problem worse, adding: "There are restrictions on advertising condoms pre-watershed, and on showing a picture of a condom out of its wrapper. Our young people are therefore receiving distorted messages."

The UK Department of Health said the issue of sexual health has been one of its top priorities and recent statistics showed the lowest levels of teenage pregnancies since 1993.

27th June 2007

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