Alcohol and unprotected sex

Alcohol and sex can often seem to go together but whilst it may seem like a good idea at the time, having sex whilst drunk  can make you take risks you wouldn’t when sober and lead to decisions you may later regret. Because alcohol can affect your judgement you may forget to use a condom or find it harder to have that discussion. Thus, leaving you at risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). You could choose to have sex with someone you don’t even fancy or be pushed into something you would never do when sober.

Studies show that many young people were drunk when they lost their virginity. Choosing to have sex for the first time can be scary and it can seem tempting to have a few drinks if you’re nervous of being naked in front of someone or worried about ‘getting it right’. Many later wish they had done things differently, one study found a third of young people were unhappy with the way they had first had sex because they were too drunk*. Also for men, alcohol can actually have a negative effect on their sexual performance, making it harder to get and maintain an erection.

You might find yourself being sick from drinking too much alcohol; if you’re taking a contraceptive pill this could make the pill less effective which puts you more at risk of an unplanned pregnancy.

Is it really worth the regret and worry afterwards?


Alcohol is the most widely used drug in the UK and although fewer young people now choose to drink, those who do often drink more than young people did in the past.

From the minute you take your first sip, alcohol starts affecting your body and mind. After one or two drinks you may start feeling more relaxed and sociable, but drink too much and basic human functions, such as walking and talking, become much harder. You might also start saying things you don’t mean, behaving out of character and making decisions like having unprotected sex which you later regret. The next day you may wake up with a hangover and feeling dehydrated which can affect your appearance with people more prone to spotty skin and bloodshot eyes.

While some of alcohol’s effects disappear overnight – the effects of regular heavy drinking can start affecting different areas of your life, and even encourage the development of long-term health conditions, such as heart and liver disease.

Did you know?

  • It might not seem it but alcohol is fattening. A glass of wine has the same amount of calories as a slice of cake and a pint of beer would be the same as eating a burger. That’s without the fattening snacks you often fancy after drinking.
  • Drinking can increase your risk of being a victim of crime or assault. Alcohol is a factor in one in three (30%) of sexual offences and one in two (50%) of street crimes.
  • Alcohol is often mistaken for a stimulant as it can make you feel happy at first, but it’s actually a depressant. So if you are feeling down, it’s likely alcohol will make you feel worse in the end.

Find out further information on the clinically proven effects and interesting facts about alcohol.

How much is too much?

The Government has published guidelines on how much men and women are advised to drink daily which is measured in units. The advice for men is no more than 3-4 units per day and for women 2-3 units per day. However, this can really differ from person to person and the impact of drinking on under-18’s can be worse than for adults.

To find out more about units and measure your own alcohol intake in units and in relation to cost and calories too, click here for a useful units calculator.

If you are going to drink alcohol remember to take it easy and make sure you bear in mind some of these tips for staying safe:

  • Know what you're drinking – beware of mixing different drinks and try not to leave them unattended.
  • Go for smaller measures – a small glass of wine rather than a large or a single measure of vodka rather than a double.
  • Be careful when pouring drinks out yourself. It’s easy to drink a lot more than you think.
  • Sip your drinks rather than knocking them back and try to space them out with water or a soft drink in-between.
  • Eat something before you drink.
  • Look out for your mates and have a plan for how you are going to get home safely.
  • If you think there is the chance you might have sex then carry a condom and make sure you stay in control so you don’t feel under any pressure to go further than you are happy with.

If you're worried about your own or someone else's drinking phone Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 or get further information from

* Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV 2007, ‘Sex, drugs and young people: A review of the impact drugs and alcohol has on young people’s sexual behaviour’.