Alcohol is fuelling an epidemic of ‘risky sex’ among teenagers, senior doctors warned yesterday.
Many youngsters admit going ‘further than intended’ while drunk, according to the Royal College of Physicians.
In a report, the college said excessive drinking and sex was a ‘cocktail’ for teenage pregnancies and infections.
It urged GPs and nurses to ask teenagers about their drinking habits when they turn up to sexual health clinics for contraception or the morning-after pill.
The organisation highlighted research showing that a fifth of 14- and 15-year-old girls said they did more sexually than they wanted to while drunk.
And more than 80 per cent of 16- to 30-year-olds said they drank before sexual activity.
The college said one million teenagers attend sexual health clinics every year to get free contraception, the morning-after pill or to undergo tests and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
It said this provides doctors and nurses with a ‘key opportunity’ to find out about youngsters’ drinking habits and warn them about the dangers of going overboard.
Dr Simon Barton, chair of the RCP’s Alcohol and Sexual Health Working Party, said: ‘The links between alcohol use and poor sexual health have been recognised for some time, yet the services available do not reflect this clear association.
‘Failing to discuss alcohol consumption with a patient accessing sexual health services is a missed opportunity.
‘Although services that aim to tackle this problem cannot be effective in isolation, there is a real opportunity for sexual health services to support people both in identifying their behavioural risks and in empowering them to take action.’
Dr Janet Wilson, president-elect of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, who helped write the report, added: ‘A sexual health check-up is the ideal time to broach the subject, to find the one in five young people attending our clinics who are at most risk and give them structured advice around alcohol consumption, referring to alcohol services where appropriate.’
The report looked at a survey carried out on 14- and 15-year-old girls in Rochdale in 2004 which found a fifth had gone further than intended when drunk.
And a separate study of 2,000 15- and 16-year-olds from 1991 found that 11 per cent regretted having sex after drinking. Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘Nurses are often the first point of contact when dealing with sexual health issues.
‘Robust regulation on the sale of alcohol, along with sensible minimum pricing and educational campaigns, is also desperately needed.’
Yesterday it was revealed that teenagers were responsible for a quarter of abortions in Britain. The figures compiled by the EU showed that more teenagers have abortions in this country than almost anywhere else in Europe. Only Belgium was found to have a higher rate.
Britain also has one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe, although the numbers have at last begun to fall in the past few years.