Marijuana Use Increases Sexual Risk Taking in Young People

Marijuana often has been referred to as a “gateway drug.” This is because it is seen as an open door to other risky behavior, such as alcohol consumption, deviant behavior, and sexual activity. In fact, many young people in the juvenile justice system have had experience with marijuana. Because of this perceived link between marijuana use and risk taking, understanding the impact of use on future behavior could help in the creation and implementation of interventions. Youths who exhibit highly risky behavior patterns are more likely to have academic, social, and health problems than their less unruly peers. Sexual risk taking can lead to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Additionally, marijuana use has been shown to increase internalizing behaviors such as depression and anxiety. Curbing these types of outcomes may be more effective if young people are identified and targeted early based on risk factors such as marijuana use.

Angela D. Bryan of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado recently led a study that assessed how marijuana use influenced risk taking among a sample of 728 teens from the juvenile justice system. Bryan evaluated the sexual behaviors, condom use, and marijuana use of the participants over two years and found that marijuana use increased the likelihood of sexual activity. “Latent growth curve modeling indicated that greater marijuana use at baseline was associated with a steeper decline in condom use over the two-year period of the study,” Bryan said. She also found that the initial level of marijuana use was more predictive of condom use than changes in marijuana use. Teens who decreased their marijuana intake were still likely to have unprotected sex if they had initially been heavy marijuana users.

Even though there were fewer female participants than males in this study, the sample size was large enough to provide ample evidence of no gender effect on marijuana use and sexual practice. Bryan believes these findings can improve negative teen outcomes by pinpointing adolescents who are most likely to participate in risk taking as a result of marijuana use.

Bryan, Angela D., Sarah J. Schmiege, and Renee E. Magnan. Marijuana use and risky sexual behavior among high-risk adolescents: Trajectories, risk factors, and event-level relationships. Developmental Psychology 48.5 (2012): 1429-442. Print.

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  • MJ

    September 26th, 2012 at 3:43 PM

    Is it really the marijuana use that makes them less probable of using protection? Or is it some other reason that not only pushes them towards risky sexual behavior but also abusing (rather than using) marijuana? I am a marijuana user and never have I indulged in unprotected sex, even in my early years. Now I can’t say the same thing about alcohol. I have know far too many people who were too drunk to use any protection.

  • Dirk

    September 26th, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    @MJ:Its not that simple if you ask me.A lot depends on the user and any mind altering substance always has the potential to put the user into an uncomfortable and risk taking position.And moreover as juvenile youth,the results are skewed if you ask me but we cannot totally ignore the potential drawbacks of marijuana.

  • Brandi

    September 27th, 2012 at 3:57 AM

    Oh I totally believe this.

    I remember back when friends of mine and I would smoke pot just to let off some steam and pass the time on weekends, and I know that there were things that I did when we got high that I would have NEVER considered doing sober. While I think that pot in gemeral is safer than alcohol in that I don’t think that you get quite as bold when you are high versus drunk, it still isn’t something that I hope my own kid sit around and do one day! I would prefer that they avoid it.

  • alister

    September 27th, 2012 at 5:25 AM

    any form of intoxicant and especially for immature youngsters is not a good can cloud their judgement and make them do things that they might regret to avoid it and if you insist on adult usage then its got to be RESPONSIBLE adult usage,which is devoid of such regrettable decisions.

  • Jillian Galloway

    September 27th, 2012 at 11:15 AM

    If the federal marijuana prohibition worked then young people wouldn’t even be able to access marijuana!!

    American taxpayers are being forced to pay $40 Billion a year for a prohibition that causes 10,000 brutal murders & 800,000 needless arrests each year, but which doesn’t even stop CHILDREN getting marijuana.

    After seventy years of prohibition, it’s obvious that the federal marijuana prohibition causes FAR more harm than good and must END! Drug Dealers Don’t Card, Supermarkets Do.

  • Esoteric Knowledge

    September 27th, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    Bigot/Control-Freak-driven Propaganda.

  • Ursula

    September 27th, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Young people are terrible decision makers to begin with, we all know that.

    So add to that already dangerous set up the drugs and drinking, and you actually have a recipe for disaster.

    Whether it is the intoxication or the exxcuse for making poor choices that is now going to do them in, this is not ever going to be conducive to model behavior and decision making if you catch my drift.

  • Ryan P

    September 27th, 2012 at 5:48 PM

    Even when they decrease use, that doesn’t mean that they have changed their peer group. Sometimes just hanging around with the wrong people can be the cause for making the worst decisions. Even when you are clear headed, that does not mean that you won’t give in to peer pressure.

  • noodles66

    September 27th, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    …complete and utter BS..!

  • A Blake

    September 27th, 2012 at 9:30 PM

    Great to see people able to see the truth. People’s minds are opening yet the propaganda goes on. Taking juveniles as subjects in the study was the first indication of looking for a preset result and not about finding facts. Moreover no part of the study shows how cannabis is responsible for such behavior and not something else. We can as well attribute the behavior to the water these participants drank or the air that they breathe!

  • runninfast

    September 28th, 2012 at 4:06 AM

    Why do you think this is BS, noodles66?
    Do you not believe that there is enough evidence stated that concludes that yes, this kind of drug use, recreational or not, addictive or not, leads to teens becoming more of a sexual risk taker?
    I think that the BS part comes when people like you wnat so badly for pot to be legalized that you hate seeing the evidence that it can cause a problem and that it is not always as safe as what you would like other people to believe.

  • Zac

    September 28th, 2012 at 5:31 AM

    While its easy to see the benefits of marijuana and the widespread knowledge of the same ever since we have medical marijuana,we should not totally rubbish reports of its harmful effects.More studies should be welcomed because only through research will we know all details about anything,whether it is a substance of abuse or a miracle medicine!

  • Cayden

    September 28th, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    @runninfast:you know why so many people just scream “propaganda”?its because history says so.look back and all you will ever see about cannabis is negativity and propaganda material.

    “marijuana kills”,”save your children”…that is nothing short of propaganda.and even today we have this everywhere!

    let us start with the basics – there is a reason they referred to it as marijuana and not cannabis. marijuana is derived from “mari’hwana”, an american spanish slang term for cannabis. what this did is that it affected the american people’s psyche at the very basic level.marijuana was a new,foreign and strange term. the word cannabis sounds scientific if you ask me. but they did not want people to see it as something scientific or valuable. instead it was to be seen as something that mexicans use and black people use and play the devil’s music (jazz) LOL

    anyway, coming back to the topic, why this is still propaganda is because it provides a distorted view with a context that is unfair.

    everybody who campaigns for cannabis decriminalization and/or legalization says “responsible adult usage”. there is just no “harmless” thing in this world if you consider the view taken by a study. please see the comment above from A Blake.

    give the best and most harmless possible thing to the wrong person and the thing itself will be seen in poor light.

    if you hand over the keys to a brand new ferrari to someone who can’t drive and then it crashes,will you say that the ferrari has a flaw?

    including juveniles in this study reeks of propaganda.there are millions of cannabis users who go about their daily lives and perform well on their jobs and would not be right to point the fingers at cannabis here,but rather the view taken by this study.

  • runninfast

    September 29th, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    @ Cayden- sounds like you are promoting a little bit of propoganda there yourself
    maybe if you were not quite so emotional about the subject one might say, hmmmm, maybe those are some valid points. And maybe they are. But so remember that those who tend to protest too much are generally those whom we wish to believe the least.

  • Cayden

    September 29th, 2012 at 11:28 PM

    @runninfast:well,if I were spreading prpaganda myself,I would be encouraging everyone out there to be using cannabis, but I’m not.

    emotional about the subject?yes,if trying to speak up against something biased and saying the truth is being emotional then yes I am!

    i’m not protesting against anyone here.but if ‘scientific’ studies like these that are followed and read about by so many people are not presenting the facts and conducting their studies in such a way that their ‘required’ result is obtained,then I think that it does require a bit of ‘protest’.

  • Buzz haha

    September 30th, 2012 at 5:07 AM

    first we are encouraging kids to get high
    now take sexual risks
    wish everyone would just lay off a little
    it’s a choice, not a crime
    well, some places it’s a crime but shouldn’t be
    maybe not quite in my right mind when i smoke but far more aware of my actions than say i am when drinking
    think teens will show the exact same things

  • dianna a

    October 1st, 2012 at 4:18 AM

    Any time that children are using drugs that can alter their minds like pot or alcohol, then this will most certainly set them up for making poor decisions. That’s the way that they are hard wired. That’s the way most of us are hard wired as a matter of fact.

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