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Attitudes About Alcohol's Effects on Sexually Risky Behavior Effect Such Behavior, Says New Study


September-October 1998

Teenagers who believe that alcohol consumption leads to sexually risky behavior are more likely to engage in such behavior when intoxicated, according to a recent study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol (Kurt H. Dermen, et al., "Sex-related alcohol expectancies as moderators of the relationship between alcohol use and risky sex in adolescents," Journal of Studies on Alcohol, 1998, vol. 59, pp. 71-77; "Expectations found to play key role in association between drinking and risky sex," Brown University Digest of Addiction Theory and Application, August 1998, vol. 17, no. 8, p. 3).

Researcher Kurt H. Dermen, Ph.D., and his colleagues from the Research Institute on Addictions in Buffalo, New York, investigated the influence of teenager's expectations about drinking and risky sex on such behavior. The researchers found that "the disinhibition and sexual risk-taking expectancies were positively associated with greater levels of risk taking" during teenagers' first and most recent sexual encounters.

The authors concluded that "alcohol increases sexual risk-taking in part by activating individually held beliefs about alcohol's effects." According to Dermen, et al., their findings suggest that it may be dangerous to reinforce the message that "alcohol leads to risky sex" or that "drinking makes you do stupid things."

Kurt H. Dermen - Research Institute on Addictions, 1021 Main St., Buffalo, NY 14203-1016, (716) 887-2492, Fax: (716) 887-2215, E-mail: <>.