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Learning Activities

All Learning Activities

Sex and Alcohol: A Risky Mix


After completing this activity, high school students will be able to identify:

  1. reasons why people use alcohol,
  2. negative things that can happen as a result of mixing sex and alcohol, and
  3. ways to reduce risk and harm if mixing sex and alcohol.


50-60 Minutes


  1. Make copies of student case studies, "Veronica's Story"and "Mark's Story" for each student.

    Note: Links on this page with the Portable Document Format icon require Adobe Acrobat Reader to view and print them. You can download this free software at:


Introduce the activity

  1. Explain that this activity aims to explore issues of mixing sex and alcohol. The educator should establish groundrules among students to guide the discussion if he/she has not already done so.

Educator's Note Regarding Confidentiality:
  • In framing the discussion, the educator should identify and communicate to the students the limits of their confidentiality.

  • The activity will be much more effective if students can be assured that adults will hold anything they say about sexual activity or drug use in confidence.

  • If the educator is presenting in a classroom where teachers or other staff will be in the room, the activity and confidentiality should be discussed among the adults beforehand.

  • If there are any adults in the room who cannot hold such information in confidence, students should be warned so that they can make choices about what to disclose.

Pass out and process "Veronica's Story" with students.

  1. Have students volunteer to read the story aloud, one paragraph at a time, plus the final discussion questions.
  1. Break the group into groups of four or five. Have half the groups brainstorm answers to Question #1; the other groups brainstorm answers to Question #2.

  2. Give the groups five minutes to brainstorm, and ask each group to select someone to record the answers.

  3. Ask the recorder to write down all answers given rather than debate whether the answers are good or not.

  4. After five minutes, reassemble the whole group and ask for reports from the small groups who looked at Question #1: "What might be some of the reasons that Veronica likes to drink?"

  5. Record answers on the board or on a flip chart. Be sure to include the following:
    • fit in/peer pressure
    • makes her feel less inhibited
    • helps her "escape" from problems
    • feels good/to have fun

  6. Ask for reports from the groups who looked at Question #2: "What are some negative things that could happen if Veronica keeps mixing sex and alcohol?"

  7. Record answers on the board or on a flip chart. Be sure to include the following:
    • unwanted pregnancy
    • HIV
    • STIs
    • rape/sexual assault
    • regret
    • emotional upset

  8. Have the whole group brainstorm answers to Question #3: If Veronica decides to keep mixing sex and alcohol, what can she do to protect herself from some of those negative things? Be sure to include the following:

    • "Abstinence/not drinking is the safest thing she can do, but if Veronica wants to drink, she should consider drinking in moderation. That means to know her limits and not drink too much."
    • Veronica can bring condoms herself.
    • Veronica can ask for more information from the clinic about the pill and whether her fears are based in reality.
    • Veronica can make sure that she and her friends look out for each other.
Educator's Note:
Students expect educators to disapprove of alcohol/drug use. Slogans from the War On Drugs campaign from the '80s and '90s like "Just Say No" are nice in theory, but they do nothing to help young people develop the critical thinking skills needed to navigate the challenges of growing up today. The War On Drugs campaign also spread shaming messages that promoted negative labels like, "Users are losers."

In response to the question, "What might be some reasons that Veronica likes to drink?" students may give judgmental responses like: stupidity or low self-esteem.

With responses like these, educators need to ask questions like:

  • Stupidity: "People generally have a reason for the things they do that make sense to them at the time. What do you think Veronica is looking for in her choice to drink alcohol?"

  • Low Self-Esteem: If Veronica's self-esteem is low, what might she get out of drinking?

The point here is to identify the positive intent in Veronica's choice to drink. If we see Veronica from the vantage point of her strengths and intelligence, we can link her positive intentions to positive choices that she can make to protect herself if she chooses to keep mixing sex and alcohol.

Pass out and process "Mark's Story" with students.

  1. Repeat processing procedure used for "Veronica's Story."

Final discussion questions:

  1. How are Veronica's and Mark's stories different?

  2. How are they the same?

Summarize the Activity

  1. Summarize the activity by stating that:
    • There are many reasons that people choose to drink.
    • There are many bad things that can happen if you mix sex and drugs.
    • The way to protect yourself 100% is not to mix sex and drugs.
    • If you do choose to mix sex and drugs, it's important to be safe and know your limits.

Variations on the Activity

  1. If time is short, do only one case study, whichever seems more relevant.

  2. If there is time, have two sessions. Use one case study for each session, with longer small group time and more in-depth discussion.

  3. Break students into single-gender groups and have young women read one case, young men the other. (It might be useful to have young women read Mark and young men read Veronica.)