Alcohol and sex

Alcohol can make you do things you'll regret, including having sex. Find out the risks and how you can keep yourself safe.

Alcohol changes the way you act and affects your decision making. The more you drink, the less careful you are, and this can have serious consequences when it comes to sex and your personal safety.

Tips for staying safe when drinking

Alcohol, sex and making decisions

Is sex safe when you've been drinking?

Emergency contraception

Alcohol and sexual assault

Tips for staying safe when drinking

If you're planning to drink alcohol, follow these tips to keep safe:

  • Stick with friends. Don't go to parties alone, and ask your friends to watch out for you if you're drinking alcohol. You can watch out for them, too, if they're drinking.
  • Always travel home with your friends, and never take an unlicensed cab – this is like getting into a car with a stranger. Keep the telephone number of a licensed taxi firm with you. Don't drive if you've been drinking. 
  • Never leave drinks unattended or accept drinks from people you don't know in case someone puts drugs in them. 
  • Make decisions when you're sober. Before you start drinking, talk to your boyfriend or girlfriend about your boundaries (what you do and don't want to do) so you don't get carried away and regret it later.
  • Be prepared. If you're ready to have sex, sort out your contraception before you go out drinking, and always carry a few condoms. Find out more about all the methods of contraception and where you can get them.

Alcohol, sex and making decisions 

Alcohol can affect your judgement. You might become easy to influence when it comes to sex. You can make rash decisions, such as having unprotected sex, which can lead to an unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia.

Alcohol might calm your nerves, but it doesn't make sex easier or better, particularly if it's your first time. Being drunk can make you feel confused or ill, which can make the experience unpleasant.

If you're drunk, you might not even remember having sex. And you're more likely to regret it, especially if it's your first time.

Is sex safe when you've been drinking?

Alcohol stops you making sensible decisions, such as using a condom for protection against pregnancy and STIs. Not using a condom puts you at a greater risk of both.

If you're drunk, you're less likely to be thinking clearly enough to talk to your partner about using condoms, or to use condoms properly. Get tips on using condoms.

If you or your partner take the contraceptive pill and alcohol makes you sick, the pill is less likely to be effective and there's a greater risk of pregnancy. Find out what to do if you're on the pill and you're sick.

Emergency contraception

If you have unprotected sex or your contraceptive method has failed, you can lower your chances of having an unintended pregnancy by getting emergency contraception from your local clinic, pharmacy or GP.

There are two types of emergency contraception:

  • the emergency contraceptive pill (sometimes called the morning after pill)
  • the IUD (intrauterine device, or coil)

There are two kinds of emergency contraceptive pill. Levonelle has to be taken within 72 hours (three days) of sex, and ellaOne has to be taken within 120 hours (five days) of sex. Both pills work by preventing or delaying the release of an egg.

The sooner the emergency contraceptive pill is taken after sex, the more likely it is to be effective.

The IUD can be inserted into your uterus up to five days after unprotected sex, or up to five days after the earliest time you could have ovulated. It may stop an egg being fertilised or implanting in your womb.

Emergency contraception does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A doctor or nurse can help you to get tested for STIs, including HIV. Find sexual health services near you, including contraceptive clinics.

If you or someone you know is having problems because of alcohol or drug use, you can get help. Visit Frank for help and advice, or call 0300 123 6600.

Alcohol and sexual assault

Being drunk makes you more vulnerable to sexual assault. This can happen to anyone, however old or young they are, and whether they're male, female, gay, straight or bisexual.

If someone tries to have sex with you and you don't want to do it, you always have the right to say no, whether you're drunk or not.

Find out where to get help if you've been sexually assaulted.

Page last reviewed: 26/10/2015

Next review due: 26/10/2017


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