Sex, Drugs, Hold the Rock’n’Roll

Maybe you swiped right. Or maybe they showed up on your social media list of “people you might know”. Or maybe you met at a good old-fashioned party.

In reality, hookup culture is changing the way young people look at dating, and alcohol can play a pivotal role in setting up the mood for those hookups to happen.

Still, the inclusion of alcohol into sex or relationships can be dangerous – leading to intercourse with people you hardly know, the transferring of STD’s, and even sexual assault. To understand just how much alcohol impacts sex in America today, we surveyed 2,000 people about their experiences between the sheets while they were under the influence. From the impact drugs and alcohol can have on sexual performance, to the series effect it can have on rape and unplanned pregnancies. Read on to see what we discovered.  

Percent of people who sleep with someone they normally would not have if sober

Instant Regret

The misuse of drugs and alcohol can affect our decision quality in all sorts of ways. Of the 2,000 we polled about their experiences under the influence of either of these substances, more than 46 percent of people told us they’d had sexual intercourse at least once in their lives with someone they wouldn’t otherwise have slept with while they were inebriated.

In reality, sex while under the influence of either drugs or sex can increase your likelihood of contracting an STD. Not just because you’re more likely to sleep with someone you wouldn’t have sober, or because your chances of taking on more sexual partners is higher, but also because both drugs and alcohol can negatively impact your immune system and your ability to fight off disease while you’re intoxicated.

Female respondents that reported being raped or sexually molested under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol

Crossing the Line

To date, the Bachelor and Bachelorette franchise on ABC is one of the networks most popular shows. While the show three versions of the franchise currently air over various parts of the year, the show has come under fire in the past for amount of alcohol available to contestants and how that alcohol can impair their judgment. This summer, a version of the show, Bachelor in Paradise, reached a new low when production was halted after multiple reports of sexual misconduct surfaced that one (or possibly both) contestants were too drunk to give consent.

Across the country, Americans are struggling to understand how to deal with sexual consent when drugs and alcohol are concerned. College campuses especially have found it difficult to establish when intoxicated sex crosses the line into assault or even rape between students. In one of the most public cases in recent memory, Stanford student and collegiate athlete Brock Turner was jailed for only six months after assaulting a passed out female behind a dumpster at a local party – Turner claimed he was inebriated at the time of the crime.

Of the 2,000 we polled, our survey found that more than one in 10 women had been raped or sexually assaulted while under the influence of alcohol and or drugs over the course of their lives. Of the 2,000 women who told us they had been raped or assaulted at some point, more than 44 percent told us that alcohol or drugs were a factor.

Respondents that reported they cheated while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol

What Controls – And Impacts – Your Decision Making

Research has long established a connection between the misuse of drugs or alcohol and the impact that it can have on a person’s cognitive abilities and their decision-making skills. Illicit narcotics can have a direct impact on the part of the brain called the orbitofrontal cortex, which controls in the moment decision making. Recent studies have found that drugs, particularly stimulants like cocaine, hijack the orbitofrontal cortex’s ability to make sound decisions when a person is confronted with a situation that hasn’t previously dealt with.

Similar research has found that excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking can also have a negative impact on one’s ability to make quality decisions. Experts have even described the extent to which people’s personalities can change while under the influence of even small amounts of alcohol.

We found that there may be nothing romantic whatsoever about the kinds of hookups that occur while people encounter while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to our survey, more that one in five people we polled admitted to having cheated on their significant others after they’d either had too much to drink or consumed illicit substances.

Percent of female respondents who become pregnant after having sexual intercourse

Fast Mistakes – Big Consequences

Alcohol consumption doesn’t just impair certain elements of sexual function, its impact on our ability to think clearly and make quality decisions can lead to dangerous sexual encounters. Studies across the world have found that while inebriated, a person is sometimes more likely to have multiple sexual partners, as well as fail to use the appropriate forms of protection or birth control, which can lead to the passing of STD’s, or even an unplanned pregnancy under certain scenarios.

Our survey found that more than one in 10 of the 2,000 women we polled acknowledged having becomes pregnant after intercourse while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. A similar study found that college students who consume alcohol in conjunction with energy drinks were more prone to risky sexual behavior than those who consumed just alcohol on its own.

Most common sexual complication due to drugs and/or alcohol broken down by gender

Under the Influence

Drinking too much alcohol doesn’t just pose potentially questionable sexual decisions, it can also lead to poor sexual performance. Over consumption of alcohol is commonly known to cause erectile dysfunction. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, moderate drinking involves no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Any more and the body may not be able to appropriately break down the toxins that build up from alcohol. Chronic or heavy misuse of alcohol has even been linked to long-term erectile dysfunction.

According to our survey, more than one in three men we polled told us they’d experienced erectile dysfunction while they were under the influence. Nearly one if five said they struggled to ejaculate, and more than one in 10 men told us their sex drives decreased when they were under the influence.

Similarly, nearly a third of women told us they weren’t able to orgasm after they’d had too much to drink, and roughly the same amount said they accidentally fell asleep during intercourse with their partner.

How well respondents knew the people they had intoxicated intercourse with.

You’ve Got Some Explaining  to Do

We also looked at who people might be inclined to sleep when they’re under the influence of alcohol.

More than half told us they had only ever slept with their significant another while under the influence, but more than one in five told us they’d slept with a friend, and more than one in 10 told us they’d slept with an acquaintance. These hookups can lead to emotional fallouts the next morning, like feeling shame or regret. Alcohol consumption also has the ability to make your sexual partner more aggressive than usual during intercourse.

Even though less than eight percent of the people we surveyed told us they slept with someone they’d just met after having too much to drink, nearly half of those hookups happened at bars, and more than one in five happened at clubs.

Taking Your Control Back

From the chance encounters that can evolve into instances of sexual abuse, unexpected sexual partners, or even unplanned pregnancies – excessive drinking in social situations can be dangerous. Even blacking out from excessive alcohol consumption, which a person might not feel coming on, is more common among young people than one might expect. One study found that more than half of college students who had consumed alcohol at some point in their lives also reported having blacked out from alcohol consumption.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, we are here to help. Regardless of the support you need, we’ll help you find a recovery center that’s right for you, no matter which kind of addiction you’re battling. With our support, you’re never alone. Visit us online to learn more or to be connected with one of our recovery advisors for free and confidential step-by-step guide to getting the help you need, now.


We surveyed over 2,000 sexually active drug users about how drugs impacted their sex lives.

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