Sex and Drugs: Sexual Risk Behaviour among Regular Psychostimulant Consumers in Australia

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Author: Allison Matthews and Raimondo Bruno

Resource Type: Drug Trends Bulletins

Key findings

  • Sexual risk behaviour was examined among Regular Psychostimulant Users (RPU) interviewed for the Ecstasy and Related Drug Reporting System (EDRS) in 2015 (n=763).
  • Three-fifths (65%) of RPU reported having penetrative sex with a casual partner during the preceding six months, and a large majority (89%) reported sex while under the influence of drugs during this time.
  • Females were significantly more likely to report casual sex while under the influence of drugs in comparison to males (93% vs. 88%), and the frequency of encounters was greater among older (>22 years) relative to younger (≤21 years) males and females.
  • Among those who had casual sex while under the influence of drugs in the last six months, two-fifths (41%) indicated that they had unprotected penetrative sex during this time, and over one-half (52%) did not use protection on the last occasion. This equates to 40% and 30% of the entire sample respectively.
  • The proportion of RPU reporting inconsistent use of protection (72% of males and 69% of females) was greater in comparison to a nationally representative sample aged 20-29 years (52% and 36% respectively).
  • The main factors associated with unprotected penetrative sex on the last occasion were: female sex, greater number of casual partners in the last six months, being under the influence of cannabis at the time, days of cannabis and alcohol use in the last six months, higher levels of problematic alcohol  use, and higher levels of psychological distress.
  • Over one-third (36%) of RPU had never had a sexual health check-up, almost one-half (46%) reported a check-up in the last year, and the remainder (18%) reported a check-up more than a year ago.
  • A small proportion of RPU (4%) had been diagnosed with an STI in the last year, most commonly chlamydia (83%), gonorrhoea (14%) or HPV (genital warts) (7%). An additional 10% had been diagnosed with an STI more than a year ago.
  • Younger males were less likely to report a sexual health check-up or an STI diagnosis in the past year when compared to older males and younger and older females. Overall STI testing rates were higher relative to the general population aged 20-29, but rates of STI diagnosis were similar.
  • RPU represent a high risk group who may benefit from targeted education campaigns and associated interventions.
  • Females, those with high levels of psychological distress, and those using cannabis and alcohol in greater frequency may be at particular risk.