Pubdate: Fri, 09 Oct 2015
Source: Register-Guard, The (OR)
Copyright: 2015 The Register-Guard
Author: Diane Dietz

Oregon State University


College students abandon condom use when binge drinking - but not 
when they're stoned - a study by an Oregon State University researcher found.

In addition, in the year after 14 states legalized medical marijuana, 
traffic fatalities fell by roughly 10 percent, a study by a 
University of Oregon researcher found.

The findings give clues about how life in Oregon may - or may not - 
change in the wake of recreational marijuana sales becoming legal on Oct. 1.

Marijuana use has rarely been studied in relationship to risky 
behavior, such as unsafe sex, according to the OSU study lead author, 
David Kerr.

Kerr and his coauthors recruited 284 college students (who had 
engaged in sex at least once previously) to answer questions on line 
each day for 24 days. The students reported their marijuana use, 
alcohol use and sexual activity in the previous 24 hours.

The study found that on the days that participants binged on alcohol 
or smoked marijuana they were more likely to engage in sex than on 
sober days - which was no surprise in the case of alcohol.

"Marijuana use may lead to sex through increased arousal and 
disinhibition and/or may be sought out to facilitate meeting a 
partner and to enhance pleasure," wrote Kerr, an associate professor 
in the OSU School of Psychological Sciences.

The study also found that binge-drinking students were likely to 
throw caution to the wind when it came to condom use.

But the marijuana smokers continued to use condoms at the same rate.

"Unlike alcohol, marijuana may cause users to compensate for 
impairments in inhibitory control by changing decision-making and 
risk perception," the study said.

In other words, the pot smokers may be a little bit paranoid or anxious.

Condom use is important, Kerr wrote, because its the only way to 
protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

The researchers concluded that "decision-making impairments may be 
mild following marijuana use and that cognitive compensation may occur."

Kerr's co-authors included Stacey Tiberio, a research scientist at 
the Eugene-based Oregon Social Learning Center; Isaac Washburn, 
assistant professor at Oklahoma State University and former OSU 
student researchers Katherine Lewis and Mackenzie Morris.

The study appeared in the September Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Meanwhile, a trio of researchers, including UO economics associate 
professor Benjamin Hansen, found - through large-scale data analysis 
- - that traffic fatalities decreased by 8 percent to 11 percent in 14 
states in the year after the states legalized the use of medical marijuana.

The finding could be significant because traffic accidents are the 
leading cause of death among Americans age 5-34, according to the 
study "Medical Marijuana Laws, Traffic Fatalities, and Alcohol 
Consumption" published in May 2013 in the Journal of Law and Economics.

The study also found "decreases in the probability of having consumed 
alcohol in the past month, binge drinking and the number of drinks 
consumed" in the wake of medical marijuana legalization.

They theorized that marijuana may be a substitute for heavy drinking 
across a large swath of population they studied.

The authors - the UO's Hansen, Montana State University's D. Mark 
Anderson and the University of Colorado's Daniel Rees - emphasized 
that their findings do not necessarily imply that driving under the 
influence of marijuana is safer than driving under the influence of alcohol.

Marijuana use is associated with impaired coordination, difficulty 
with thinking and problem solving, and disrupted learning and memory, 
according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The drop in fatalities, the study suggested, simply may be that the 
pot smokers stayed home when they were stoned.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom