You're more likely to regret a sexual encounter after taking alcohol rather than cannabis. Photo: StockyPics

You’re more likely to regret a sexual encounter after taking alcohol rather than cannabis. Photo: StockyPics

Research recently published in the journal Psychology & Sexuality stated that people were more inclined to regret a shag after consuming alcohol rather than cannabis or ecstasy (properly known as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or MDMA). Joseph J. Palamar of New York University, the author of this study, commented that many other studies had examined the effects of drugs on the chance of indulging in risky sex, but few had looked at the actual sexual effects of drugs: whether a condom was used was important, but it was high time someone checked out actual sexual responses.

The details

Researchers visited nightclubs and dance festivals in New York and asked 679 people aged 18 to 25 about their use of alcohol, cannabis and ecstasy – the three most popular drugs amongst this age group – and what it did to their perceived sexual attractiveness of themselves and others, what we shall call “sexual outgoingness” and the length of intercourse. This revealed that alcohol made people feel more attractive and more attracted to others (“Beer goggles” are real!) but was also more likely to make people regret a shag afterward.

Alcohol made 72 percent of people feel more attracted to others, compared to 64 percent for ecstasy and a quarter for cannabis. For those who regret a shag, the figures were 31 percent for alcohol, 13 percent for ecstasy and a mere seven percent for cannabis. Alcohol caused 77 percent of people to feel more outgoing, making them more likely to find a partner, as opposed to 72 percent for ecstasy and 26 percent for cannabis. Cannabis could actually be bad in this last respect, giving people more anxiety in unfamiliar situations. Palamar pointed out that alcohol was very common and also promoted by society while cannabis and ecstasy were demonised.

The researchers found ecstasy to cause greater body sensitivity and hence sexual pleasure. Heightened sexual desire was more common after taking both alcohol and ecstasy rather than cannabis. But then, so was sexual dysfunction in men, although the reverse was true of women; this was mostly impotence for the guys and vaginal dryness for the women. Alcohol lowered inhibitions more. Palamar commented that sexual encounters while high on cannabis “tended to be with someone the individual knew.” He also remarked that even if a condom was used, people might regret a shag while drunk because they “may hook up with someone they normally wouldn’t have sex with.” So you might never have gone to bed with a 2, but you certainly woke up with a few.

A word of warning

Palamar cautioned that data was self-reported, which he described as making it of “limited” value, and many of this age group took multiple drugs at once so folk might have been less able to distinguish between the effects of the different drugs. Additionally, drugs can affect recall. Palamar also mentioned that the illegality of cannabis can facilitate sexual interactions because it’s used in a private setting, which some users can take advantage of.

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