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Original Research

Moderation of Risks to Sexual Health by Substance Use in College Students With ADHD

Ashley M. Rohacek, BSa; Madison K. Firkey, MSa; Sarah E. Woolf-King, PhD, MPHa; and Kevin M. Antshel, PhDa,*

Published: June 29, 2022


Objective: Poor sexual health is a public health concern for college students and individuals with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), yet limited information is available on the sexual health of college students with ADHD. Here, the sexual health of college students with and without ADHD was described and moderators of risk to sexual health were identified.

Methods: A secondary data analysis of the National College Health Assessment III (Fall 2019, Spring 2020, and Fall 2020 administrations) was conducted using a sample of sexually active undergraduate students (N = 36,236). Logistic regressions were used to compare sexual behaviors and health outcomes of college students with and without self-reported ADHD and test for interactions between ADHD and substance use–related moderators of risk to sexual health (ie, alcohol use, binge drinking, and cannabis use).

Results: Compared to non-ADHD peers, college students with ADHD reported more past-year sexual partners (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.27; P < .01), lower rates of condom use (aOR = 0.77; P < .001), and higher rates of condomless sex while drinking (aOR = 1.52; P < .001). College students with ADHD reported more sexually transmitted infection diagnoses (aOR = 1.29; P < .01), a greater number of unplanned pregnancies (aOR = 1.72; P < .001), and more emergency contraception use (aOR = 1.19; P < .001). Alcohol use, binge drinking, and cannabis use moderated the relationship between ADHD and sexual health.

Conclusions: College students with ADHD represent a vulnerable population for poor sexual health and are differentially impacted by substance use. Indicated sexual health prevention strategies and treatment for college students with ADHD are warranted.

Volume: 83

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