Background: Sexual activity accompanied by substance use can impair youth decision-making and enhance risk-taking behaviors. Less is known, however, about the sexual values, perceptions and subsequent sexual practices of youth whose sexual debut occurs while using alcohol/drugs.
Methods: A cross-sectional anonymous online survey was conducted in April-August 2012 among undergraduate and graduate university students (aged 18 to 30) attending the 4th largest private university in Beirut. Pearson's Chi-square and regression models were run using Stata/IC 10.0.
Results: 940 university students had engaged in oral, anal and/or vaginal sex, of whom 10% admitted to having had consumed alcohol or taken drugs at sexual debut, a behavior that was more common in the males, less religious, non-Arabs, students living alone or who had lived abroad. Students who used alcohol/drugs at sexual debut were twice as likely to have: their first oral and vaginal sex with an unfamiliar partner [odds ratio (OR) = 2.6, 95% confidence interval (CI): (1.6, 4.2) and OR = 2.1 (1.2, 3.5), respectively], controlling for sex, nationality, current relationship status, living abroad after the age of 12, and spirituality. Students who had sex the first time while using alcohol/drugs were three times as likely to report having had 11 or more subsequent sexual partners versus one or two [OR = 3.0 (1.5-6.0)]; and almost twice as likely to ever engage in something sexual they did not want to do [OR = 1.7 (1.1, 2.8)]. Perceived peer pressure to have sex by a certain age [OR = 1.8 (1.1, 2.9)], and perceived peer norms to consume alcohol/drugs before sex [OR = 4.8 (2.3, 9.9)] were also strong correlates of having sex for the first time while using alcohol and/or drugs.
Conclusions: Findings stress the importance of sexuality education for youth, and the need to begin understanding the true interplay--beyond association--between youth sexual practices and substance use behaviors from a broader public health perspective.