Sex, Partying & HIV: Can You Drink Or Use Recreational Drugs On PReP?

September 30, 2022

Can A Drug Prevent HIV?

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) damages the immune system, exposing people to infections and other dangerous diseases. Over the decades, science and medicine have progressed in treating and preventing HIV. By working with a healthcare provider and using a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PReP) medication, HIV-negative people at risk can avoid getting HIV. PReP and healthy sex practices form an excellent treatment as prevention (TasP) strategy.

What is PrEP?

Pre-exposure prophylaxis is an FDA-approved drug that is up to 99% effective at preventing sexual transmission of HIV. For people who inject drugs (PWID), the protection may be up to 74%. PrEP works by setting up a series of inhibitors that prevent HIV from multiplying in the body. The prescription drug is taken once daily over several weeks. There is also a long-lasting injectable form taken every 4-8 weeks. Anyone who takes PrEP also requires HIV testing every 3 months. A common concern with PrEP is the possible side effects of drinking or recreational drug use, but are there any risks?

Are you ready to party?

Teenagers have fun time chilling at a friend’s house and going to house parties. At age 21, house parties turn into having fun at concerts, clubs, and raves. Partying can be exciting, but there is a high risk of contracting the virus. Sex, alcohol, and recreational drug use are common, and these practices can lead to compromising situations. Staying protected can help partygoers have fun safely. If sex is on the agenda for the weekend or there’s a possibility of sexual activity, be prepared. Make sure to start the regimen at least 7 days before partying. Those who have not begun PrEP but were exposed through sex can start the medicine within 72 hours. There is also on-demand PrEP, a stronger dose that can help cis-gender men who have sex with men (MSM). These men can stay protected starting 24 hours before sex.

Can you drink on PrEP?

In a study of a group of men surveyed with male partners, 75% believed that PrEP and alcohol use is toxic. There is a general belief that all prescription drugs mixed with alcohol cause complications. This idea discourages many at-risk people from using PrEP. This is far from the truth. There are no real side effects of moderate alcohol use and PrEP. Moderate alcohol use does not reduce the power of the medicine. Doctors actually encourage PrEP use as cover in the event of unprotected sex or sex with an HIV-positive partner whose viral load is unknown.

What about recreational drugs?

Some club scenes will expose partygoers to mood-altering drugs. Like alcohol, these drugs will not decrease the effectiveness of PrEP. There are no reported cases of an unwanted reaction between the two. However, like alcohol, recreational drugs increase the possibility of sharing needles and exposure to HIV. Over time, this may affect how well PrEP works, based on reasons like medication adherence. Both excess alcohol use and more potent opioids or illegal drugs can have long-term effects on health and increase the risk of HIV. Speak with a doctor for help with TasP methods, including counseling, testing, and protection.

Have fun but do so safely

Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a great way to help the spread of HIV. At-risk people can still party, have sex, and even use some recreational drugs while on PrEP. At the same time, PrEP cannot protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or the dangers of drug use. Make sure to use protection and caution so partying can be filled with memories and not regret.


“Since becoming a patient with HSNT, I feel seen, cared for, and more informed than I’ve ever been.”  –  Jordan Grahmann

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