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Alcohol, Marijuana Dependence Risk in Women Tied to Number of Sexual Partners

Update Date: Feb 18, 2013 02:16 AM EST

According to a new study, young women who have many sexual partners have a high risk of getting addicted to alcohol or marijuana later in life.

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Otago who examined data available from Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health & Development Study - that has tracked the development of 1,000 people since their birth in Dunedin in 1972-73.

Researchers compared the number of sexual partners of the people enrolled in the study when they were young with the prevalence of mental disorders like anxiety, depression and substance dependence later in life.

"This is a striking increase in the risk of substance disorder. Furthermore, when we used a model to compare men and women who had more than 10-20 sex partners in the same periods, we found that these women were much more likely to have a substance disorder than the men," said Dr. Sandhya Ramrakha, lead author of the study.

Dependence on either alcohol or marijuana doesn't just get the person depending on the substance to function normally, but also disrupts their social lives.

The results remained the same even after researchers accounted for prior mental disorders in these people that might have increased the risk of substance use.

"The role of the alcohol industry in encouraging the view that alcohol is entertainment, targeting young women in particular, is disturbing. Young women are also encouraged to 'keep up' with young men in relation to their drinking," said Ramrakha.

Women drinking higher amounts of alcohol put their health in greater risk than men, according to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. A woman's body weighs less and has lower amounts of water and so the risk of alcohol exposure is higher in women than in men.

The study found that women with only one sexual partner in early adulthood had lower chances of turning to alcohol and marijuana later in life. Ramrakha says that probably short-term relationships or many failed relationships put these women at a high risk of being dependent on alcohol or marijuana.

The study is published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

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