Use of alcohol among users of a Young People’s Sexual Health Service

Use of alcohol among users of a Young People’s Sexual Health Service

P. McGough, P. Keogh, M. Lamont, C. Thow

The Sandyford Initiative, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

The use of alcohol by young people, and its links to antisocial and

risk-taking behaviour, has been the subject of much government and media

attention. Links to sexual risk-taking have been shown in some studies and not

in others. In an effort to discover whether this link was important to our

practice, three hundred young people attending various clinical services across

a large Scottish city were asked about their alcohol intake, and the

relationship to various health and social behaviours. 83% of the subjects were

female, reflecting the use of services locally. The age range was from 12–25

years, with most being 16–18 years old. 39.7% of respondents were still at


The results: 74% drank at weekends or more frequently, with only 8% stating

they never drank alcohol. 50% said they stop when they’ve ‘had enough’,

but 22.7% drink ‘until it runs out’ or ‘until very drunk’. 40% drank

spirits mainly, with another 15% choosing ‘alcopops’.

While 47% of the sample had never taken drugs, 42% of respondents had mixed

alcohol and other drugs, with cannabis being the most frequently mentioned drug.

Adverse events were common: 19% stated they had experienced concern or hurt

through their own drinking, and 41.7% said they had experienced concern or hurt

through someone else’s drinking. 25.7% had been injured or hurt, 11.7% had

been in hospital, and 24.7% admitted that they had been in trouble with the

police as a result of alcohol use. 35% said that their alcohol use was linked to

unprotected sex, and 25.7% that alcohol had been linked to sex they later


These figures show that a large proportion of young people in this group were

drinking alcohol regularly, and regretted, unprotected sex and its sequelae are

only one of the adverse unintended consequences of this. This has several

implications for education of young people, provision of services for them, and

training of staff working with them.

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