Teens Trading Sex for Drugs, Booze, B.C. Study Reveals
A new study by University of British Columbia (UBC) researchers highlights the problem of the low but steady rate of teens who trade sex for drugs and alcohol.
The UBC team analyzed survey data from a biennial questionnaire involving 2,360 seventh- to 12th-graders from 28 schools in the province’s southeast region conducted by the East Kootenay Addiction Services Society. The researchers found that just over 2 percent of teens who had ever tried alcohol, marijuana or other drugs also had exchanged sex for those substances. Girls and boys were almost equally likely to have done so. Of those reporting transactional sex, 83 percent of boys and 98 percent of girls were living at home with their family.
“We do know that the kids who felt like they weren’t supported or cared about by their families were much more likely to be trading sex for alcohol or drugs,” said UBC professor and study co-author Elizabeth Saewyc. “Family makes a big difference. When parents talk with kids about their values and goals and when they model healthy romantic relationships, this does influence their own kids’ sexual decision-making.”
The study showed that highly impulsive teens were more likely to engage in trading sex for substances. The repercussions of this behavior include STD risks and emotional distress such as suicidal thoughts or acts of self-harm like skin-cutting.
Saewyc said further studies are needed to understand how pervasive the practice is and to help track whether sex education and other prevention strategies are effective.
[PNU editor’s note: The study, “A Profile of High School Students in Rural Canada Who Exchange Sex for Substances,” was published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality (2012;21(1):29-40).]
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