BACKGROUND:

Substance use is associated with sexual risk behaviors among youth, but little is known about whether nonmedical prescription drug use, an increasingly common behavior, is associated with sexual risk behaviors.

METHODS:

Data from the 2011 and 2013 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, cross-sectional surveys conducted among nationally representative samples of students in grades 9 to 12 were combined (n = 29 008) to examine the association between ever taking prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription and sexual risk behaviors (ever having sexual intercourse, current sexual activity, lifetime number of sexual partners, condom use, and alcohol or drug use before last sexual intercourse). Using logistic regression models (adjusted for sex, race/ethnicity, grade, ever injection drug use, and use of alcohol, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines, ecstasy, and inhalants), we estimated adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs).

RESULTS:

Nonmedical use of prescription drugs (NMUPD) was associated with ever having sexual intercourse (aPR 1.16 [95% CI 1.11–1.22]), being currently sexually active (1.26 [1.20–1.33]), having ≥4 lifetime sexual partners (1.45 [1.34–1.57]), drinking alcohol or using drugs before last sexual intercourse (1.32 [1.17–1.48]), and not using a condom at last sexual intercourse (1.14 [1.05–1.23]). As the frequency of NMUPD increased, the association between NMUPD and each of the sexual risk behaviors increased in strength, suggesting a dose–response relationship.

CONCLUSIONS:

NMUPD is associated with sexual behaviors that put high school students at risk for sexually transmitted infections. These findings can be used to inform clinical and school-based interventions developed to reduce drug use and sexually transmitted infections.

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