Study: Promiscuity and Addiction Linked

By Valerie Tejeda 02/26/13

Having multiple sex partners increases risk for substance abuse, particularly among women.

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Those with a greater number of sex partners are more likely to develop alcohol and drug addiction, a new study suggests. And women are at particular risk, reports Fix columnist Maia Szalavitz in Time. New Zealand researchers studied the alcohol and drug use and sexual behavior of 1037 people born between 1972 and 1973. They found that women 18 to 20 years old who reported having more than two to three sex partners were ten times more likely to develop a drug problem than those who had fewer sex partners. For men, the risks were also increased, but less significantly. Having more than one sex partner from age 18 to age 20 nearly tripled the risk of addiction at age 21—and having more than two to three partners quadrupled that risk. The researchers speculate that there may be several factors that contribute to their findings, including impulsivity, which may drive both sexual behavior and substance abuse. “People who are impulsive may be more likely to engage in both activities and consequently be more likely to become substance dependent,” the authors write. They also suggest that the repercussions of multiple short-term relationships could be psychologically damaging. “This may be due to the impersonal nature of such relationships,” they write, “Or it might be that multiple failed relationships create anxiety about initiating new relationships. Self ‘medication’ with substances may be one way of dealing with this interpersonal anxiety.”

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix,, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.