Understanding High Risk Behaviors

The increased independence of entering adulthood often comes with choices that could put your health and well-being at risk. Risky behavior is defined as an action that has at least one uncertain outcome that can put you or another individual at risk of harm. Risky behavior goes hand in hand with a natural need to explore, discover, and grow. It is important, however, to weigh your decisions carefully and be informed on these behaviors.


You may not be picking up a traditional cigarette, but if you’re vaping, you’re still putting your health at risk. While you may perceive this form of smoking to be harmless, or at least less harmful than smoking a cigarette, think again. E-cigarettes are not all are nicotine-free, even if they claim to be. Nicotine is the same drug found in cigarettes, and is addictive, toxic, and can have huge effects on your body and brain development. E-cigarettes also contain other chemicals and heavy metals. Inhaling this foreign mixture into your lungs can be toxic. Research shows that vaping spurs unique immune responses and immune responses like that of cigarettes. Each time you vape, you’re essentially sending your immune system into attack mode.

If you need advice or help to stop using nicotine, please call or message your provider using your portal account. We have resources available to help.

Marijuana (THC)

While many states have legalized the use of marijuana, there are still risks that you need to be aware of. If you have been prescribed the use of marijuana for medical purposes, it’s important to purchase the drug from a reputable dispensary. Purchasing marijuana on the street or from someone you know, may often lead to you consuming other chemicals or drugs that are mixed with the supply.

It is also important to note that research has proven that your brain is still developing until the age of 25. Scientists have shown that THC slows myelination, a process that allows your nerve cells in your brain to communicate with each other. In some cases, the use of marijuana at an early age can cause permanent changes to your brain’s development causing a decrease in cognitive function. In addition, as with alcohol, people can make poor choices while under the influence of marijuana.

If you need advice on decreasing or stopping marijuana use, please call or message your provider using your portal account. We have resources available to help.


Drinking alcohol before the age of 21 is illegal and can come with many serious consequences. Alcohol impairs your judgment and makes it difficult to keep boundaries. Binge drinking or chronic drinking can be extremely harmful or deadly. Even though alcohol can be harmful, it still tends to be widely available to high school and college age students. If you choose to drink, please keep these tips in mind:

  • Be aware that the medications you take regularly may be impacted if mixed with alcohol. It’s important to understand these interactions before you drink.
  • You should never stop a prescribed medicine you are taking to drink alcohol.
  • Never drink out of someone else’s cup or a cup you have been given. You can’t guarantee what is in the cup.

If you need advice on decreasing or stopping alcohol use, please call or message your provider using your portal account. We have resources available to help.

Other Prescription Medications

You should never take medications that were prescribed for someone else. There is no telling what you are actually taking or how the medication may affect you. If you are running low on your medications or think you may need a new medication, please contact your physician.

Your Guide to Common Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)

Regardless of gender or amount of sexual activity, no one is immune from contracting a sexually transmitted disease. Using protection is vital to help decrease risk of infection, but even so, using protection does not guarantee success. Something else to consider is the fact that even if you do have an STD, the symptoms are not always noticeable. There are many types of STDs, but the following are some of the most common.


HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, affecting 79 million Americans. There are several different types of HPV that can cause health issues such as genital warts or even cancer. HPV is spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who already has the virus. It can be passed without noticing any symptoms and can even develop years after a sexual encounter with someone infected.


HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s passed through bodily fluids including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. Over time, HIV reduces the number of T cells in the body, making the person affected more likely to contract other infections or cancers. In the worst-case scenario, an infection or cancer can take over the immune system completely and lead to AIDS—the last stage of HIV.


Chlamydia is a common STD that can infect both men and women. For women, it can cause permanent damage to the reproductive system. Many people who conduct Chlamydia don’t see the symptoms, but possible symptoms can include abnormal discharge and a burning sensation while urinating. Chlamydia can be spread through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.


Gonorrhea is a common STD that can infect anyone who is sexually active through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. When pregnant, the disease can also be spread to the baby during birth. Gonorrhea is most common in the 15-24 age range. It can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat, but can be cured with the right medication.


Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to serious health complications; however, it is simple to cure with the right treatment. Syphilis is contracted by coming into direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Sores can be found around the genitals, rectum, lips or mouth. The infection is divided into four stages with different signs and symptoms associated with each (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary).

Genital Herpes

Any sexually active individual can contract genital herpes. Most people who are infected do not have any noticeable symptoms. The virus spreads through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the disease. You can also get genital herpes by coming into contact with a herpes sore, saliva or skin of the genital area.

Never be afraid to ask your physician about your sexual health. Remember, they are there to help you—not to judge you.