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Alcohol can lead to impaired judgment, STDs, pregnancies

By Nina Henderson
On October 16, 2000

You've heard it your entire life - drinking and driving is dangerous - but have you ever thought that drinking and having sex can be just as harmful?
Alcohol can effect the judgement of a drinker and that person may do something they normally would not do, like leave a party or bar with someone they don't know.
Alcohol can cloud your memory so a drinker may forget they had decided not to have sex before going out or even worse, they might forget to use protection if they did choose to have intercourse.
Alcohol may effect decision-making. A drinker may not know where to draw the line when on a date, or when to leave before things go too far.
It can diminish a person's awareness. A drinker may miss signals of danger or not see consequences. This can lead to a greater risk of rape.
Drinkers may also misread each other's body language or have other communication misunderstandings.
According to a survey, 16 percent of males and 15 percent of females reported drinking one to four drinks before or during their last sexual encounter and 17 percent of males and 7 percent of females reported drinking five or more drinks before or after their last sexual encounter.
So, if you went out last night, had a little too much to drink, went home with a stranger and now you're wondering if you should be tested for a STD or pregnancy, you can contact ETSU's Student Health Clinic in Lamb Hall for help.
Barbara Knight, health education coordinator for Student Health Services, said that within the first six months of this year, the clinic tested approximately 130 people for some sort of STD, but not all these people tested positive.
The number of people who visit the clinic to be tested increases after holidays such as Fall Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break.
More parties occur during holidays and when there is a party, alcohol is usually involved.
Intoxicated people might use protection but when you've been drinking, you may not use the condom properly and you might not discover it is broken until it is too late. This is one of many reasons people contract STDs.
"Usually people don't come into the clinic to be tested unless they have good reason to suspect they have had contact with a person who has an STD," Knight said.
The most common STD detected among students at ETSU is chlamydia.
Chlamydia can grow in the male and female urethra and in women it can grow deep inside the pelvis.
In both men and women, symptoms include no signs to a clear discharge from the urethra. Also, redness and irritation is common. Chlamydia can be treated with antibiotics.
Herpes is also common among infected students at ETSU.
The most common sign of genital herpes is clusters of blistered sores appearing on the vagina, cervix, penis, mouth, anus or buttocks.
Symptoms usually appear two to 20 days after infection, but it could be years before an outbreak occurs.
There is no cure for herpes, but there are medications that help control symptoms.
Gonorrhea is the second most common STD treated in the clinic.
Eighty percent of women and 10 percent of men with gonorrhea show no symptoms.
If diagnosed with gonorrhea, oral medications can be given to cure this disease.
Another common STD is genital warts. They are usually painless, but may itch.
Between 500,000 to 1 million genital wart cases occur in the United States every year.
Genital warts can multiply and must be burnt or frozen off. Medication is available that will remove the warts as well.
If any student suspects that they may have a STD and would like to be tested, the ETSU clinic office hours are from 8-4:30 p.m. from Monday through Friday. Knight suggests arriving by 3:30 p.m. to be seen.
Testing for an STD varies. A sample of discharge is taken with a swab or in some cases, a blood test is performed. Results take three to seven days.
"People are ashamed to come forward to get help," Knight said, "but the staff at the health clinic are trained professionals and in no way judgmental of another persons lifestyle."
Catching an STD is no different then catching colds, the flu or the chicken pox.
If a person contracts something incurable it doesn't mean you never can be intimate with another person.
"It means you have to be open with your partner, work around episodes and use extra precautions," Knight said.
If you suspect that you are pregnant, the health clinic can administer urine tests. If it comes back positive, a blood test will be performed.
There is a way to prevent contraception through Emergency Contraceptive Pills if the pill is taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
"It is in no way an abortion," Knight said. Emergency Contraceptive Pills are meant to stop the egg and sperm from uniting. There is an 85 percent success rate.
Knight stresses that this should not be used in place of birth control.
The health clinic does offer Emergency Contraceptive Pills, birth control, Depo-Provera, and condoms, and they will fit women for a diaphragm.
"The health clinic will never offer mifepristone because it is a form of abortion," Knight said.
Students need to consult their own physicians for more information about this drug.
For more information, contact the Student Health Clinic at 439-4225.

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