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Binge drinking is fun -- until the gonorrhea diagnosis

September 6, 2008 |  5:00 pm


Drinking five or more alcoholic beverages at one time appears to be connected to risky sexual behaviors as well as (surprise!) higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea.

The findings, from researchers at Johns Hopkins University, would seem to be so obvious as to merit a "yeah, and ...?" Here's one of the "ands": The connection is more of a problem for women.

The researchers questioned several hundred men and women being evaluated or treated for sexually transmitted diseases, asking them about recent drug and alcohol use as well as about risky sexual practices. Those were defined as such things as having multiple partners and anal sex.

And it turns out inhibitions can be lowered too far -- meaning binge drinking gets in the way of smart decision-making. This is true for both genders obviously, but women who consume the same amount of alcohol as men can nonetheless end up with a higher concentration of alcohol in their bloodstream because of their smaller body mass, creating more impairment. As far as the actual sex, women are more likely to contract some diseases, such as HIV, through repeated condomless intercourse than are men.

Says Heidi E. Hutton, a study author and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, in a news release on the research: "Across genders, women binge drinkers are more likely to have anal sex than men binge drinkers. Within gender, women binge drinkers are three times as likely to have anal sex, and twice as likely to have multiple sex partners compared to women who do not drink alcohol. Compared to non-drinking women, women binge drinkers are also five times as likely to have gonorrhea."

The researchers recommend that people being treated for STDs be screened for a binge drinking problem, not just alcohol dependence.

The new research will be published in the November issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Here's information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on binge drinking (the reference list might be ultimately more useful) and a Times story about binge drinking, specifically as it relates to women: Threat behind the party girl image.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo credit: David Silverman / Getty Images