How Drugs and Substance Abuse Affect Your Sex Life and How to Overcome It
Sex may permeate our popular culture, but conversations about it are still associated with stigma and shame in Indian households. As a result, most individuals dealing with sexual health issues or trying to find information about sex often resort to unverified online sources or follow the unscientific advice of their friends.
To address the widespread misinformation about sex, News18.com is running this weekly sex column, titled ‘Let’s Talk Sex’. We hope to initiate conversations about sex through this column and address sexual health issues with scientific insight and nuance.
The column is being written by Sexologist Prof (Dr) Saransh Jain. In today’s column, Dr. Saransh Jain explains how substance abuse and drugs pose a threat to your sex life, and its affects, causes and treatments.
Sex and drugs is a hot topic in popular culture, but this combination can pose serious risks to your sexual health and can affect your sex life in many ways, including increasing or decreasing libido and sexual response, as well as making sex more or less intense. They can also increase sexual risk-taking and change the way the body responds to sex.
The effects of drugs on sex change with time. Drugs that interfere with any stage of a person’s sexual response, including their thoughts and feelings, can affect sex. In most cases, the effects are unpredictable; for example, a drug that had a positive effect one day may have a negative effect on sex over time.
What is Substance Abuse Disorder?
A substance use disorder can develop in anyone who uses a potentially addictive drug. The risk increases when a person uses a drug for recreational purposes or at a higher dose than a doctor recommends. Some signs of substance use disorders include:
• Feeling physically or emotionally dependent on drugs
• Not being able to quit using despite trying
• Continuing to use drugs despite negative consequences
• Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms when a person attempts to quit
• Requiring increasingly higher drug doses to achieve the same high
How Drugs Affect Sex Experience?
Drugs can make sex more or less pleasurable, and the specific effects of drugs on sex can change over time, especially if a person becomes addicted. Drugs can also affect a person’s ability to remember, consent to, or communicate about sex.
When a person becomes addicted to the drug for sex, their usual sexual feelings and behaviour may change. Some people may become addicted to drugs in order to enjoy sex or as a self-medication strategy for dealing with sexual problems.
How It Impacts Your Sex Life?
Sex requires a coordination of hormones, neurotransmitters, physiological changes, thoughts, and emotions. When sex and drug or substance abuse are combined, short- and long-term effects on your health can develop. Here are a few ways in which addiction affects your sexual health:
• Lowers Libido
It is a common misconception that substance abuse can enhance sexual desire and function. While this might be true on occasion, the effects wear off quickly and often result in decreased interest in sexual activity.
This occurs for several reasons. First, drugs and alcohol affect you emotionally, which impacts your libido. Also, getting and using substances can be physically and emotionally exhausting, leaving you with a little energy or interest in anything else, including sex.
• Sexual Dysfunction
Substance abuse can also make it physically difficult to have sex. A male might become incapable of sustaining an erection, and males and females may find that they are unable to achieve orgasm. People often use drugs to increase pleasure and make it easier to orgasm during sex. However, some drugs may also make it more difficult to orgasm.
Regardless of whether a person psychologically desires sex, drugs can affect physical arousal. For example, they can affect vaginal lubrication or lead to sexual dysfunction.
• Sexually Transmitted Disease
Abusing drugs or substance or alcohol can lead to risky sexual behaviour. When a person engages in an unprotected sex, one of the results could be a sexually transmitted disease. While some of these diseases are highly treatable, there are others that are incurable and can lead to a long list of health complications.
• Sexual Risk-Taking & Loss of Relationship:
People may take more sexual risks when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is common for people with substance use disorders to lose relationships with those they care about the most.
Some people may perceive this as positive when drugs decrease inhibitions or anxiety. However, in some cases, certain potentially harmful sexual behaviours can also lead to sexual assault, abuse and sexual practices that could lead to negative effects.
Overcoming Sexual Function Issues in Addiction Treatment
Unfortunately, substance abuse and drugs can affect sex life even after treatment and in long-term recovery. However, the good news is that you can rebuild your life in an addiction recovery. Once you are free from active addiction, you can begin addressing other areas of physical and emotional well-being, including your sexual health.
Substance use disorder is a medical problem, not a moral or personal failure. A person with a substance use disorder requires both medical treatment to manage withdrawal symptoms and psychological support to develop new coping skills and resist drug cravings.
An individual could find support from a doctor, support group, or mental health professional. Treatment may include a combination of therapy, medical detox, medical care for any underlying conditions, lifestyle changes, and abstaining from addictive substances.
In addition to treatment for substance misuse disorders, people who use drugs to have sex may also need treatment for sexual dysfunction. A doctor or mental health professional can help identify the underlying cause of the problem and improve a person’s sexual experience.