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 safer.

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

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 that 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 condom. 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 more easy to influence when it comes to sex. You can make rash decisions, such as having unprotected sex, which can lead to 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?

It's not safe if you don't use a condom. Alcohol stops you making sensible decisions such as using a condom, which is the only way to protect yourself from 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. Find out tips on using condoms.

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

Emergency action

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

The emergency pill (also known as the 'morning-after' pill) can be used up to 72 hours (three days) after unprotected sex, but it's more effective the sooner it’s taken. A doctor or nurse can help you to get tested for STIs. Find sexual health services near you, including contraceptive clinics.

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

Sexual assault

Being drunk makes you 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.

Further information

Where can I get emergency contraception?

It's OK to say no to sex

Teens and unsafe sex

Experts describe what can happen if a girl has unprotected sex, and explain contraception options, emergency contraception and how a pregnancy test works.

Media last reviewed: 07/01/2013

Next review due: 07/01/2015

Page last reviewed: 30/09/2013

Next review due: 30/09/2015

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