As one of the most popular drugs in the gay community, users mistakenly believe that crystal meth leads to fun and enhances their life experiences. Due to that train of thought, this drug has become somewhat of an epidemic among the gay population—particularly in major metropolitan cities.
Here’s a look at 7 alarming facts concerning meth use in the gay community.
Meth Abuse is Rampant
In general, gay men report higher levels of drug and alcohol addiction than their straight counterparts. Over the last 15 years, crystal meth has grown into a particularly destructive force in the gay community.
“The number of arrests involving crystal meth has doubled so far this year over 2013,” said Michael Kasten, a committee chairperson on Florida’s No More Meth Task Force. “If you look at the actual arrests by sector [in Florida], they are in the gay neighborhoods of Fort Lauderdale.”
“It’s such a tough problem. There’s such a high rate of recidivism; you don’t get much success,” said Mark Ketcham, executive director of SunServe. “If you know you’re not going to win, it’s hard to take it on, but we have to start somewhere. We have to start addressing the whys. It’s an uphill battle, this damn thing. It’s just very frustrating.”
Meth is Combined with Other Drugs
The gay community is the largest consumer of “party” drugs. Though crystal meth is by far the most popular party drug, a lot of gay men and women combine their meth use with other drugs. A few of the substances commonly combined with meth include Special K, Poppers, Viagra, GHB and Ecstasy.
One of the most concerning trends in the gay community is “speedballing.” When someone mixes sedatives and uppers—drugs with opposite effects—the results can quickly throw body systems into chaos.
While meth and heroin are often combined, the most popular speedball cocktails in the gay community include meth and GHB or Viagra. The problem is that many users aren’t aware of the life-threatening dangers associated with speedballing.
“GHB is a sedative and goes hand in hand with meth. First you get a blast of high from the meth and then the GHB evens you out,” said Todd Connaughty, director of clinical services at the Pride Institute in Minnesota. “… With GHB it’s very easy to pass out and bad things can quickly happen.”
What’s more, newly released data also reveals that the combination of crystal meth and Viagra can escalate HIV production in the brain.
Sex/Meth Parties are Increasingly Popular
Thanks to social media platforms like Grindr and Tinder, sex parties have become extremely prevalent. Party hosts often advertise that guests will be treated to free meth and anonymous sexual escapades. In many areas of the nation, these parties have become a regular occurrence. And, unfortunately, most of the party guests end up having unprotected sex.
Recently, a man named Zachary opened up to SFGN magazine about the prevalence of sex/meth parties in South Florida. Zachary, a recovering addict, attended one of these lavish parties after reading an invitation post on Grindr.
“The party was hosted in a house situated in downtown West Palm Beach. There was like this extravagance to it. It was very classy. They had coolers, drinks and Gatorades, a snack bar. It was a well organized event,” said Zachary.
Making things worse, most—if not all—of the sexual intercourse that took place that night was unprotected.
Meth is Highly Dangerous for Gay, HIV Positive Men
Though meth is a destructive force in every demographic, it’s particularly damaging within the gay community. The most pressing concerns are based on data that indicates crystal meth can potentially help promote a virulent strain of HIV (dubbed the HIV “SuperVirus”) and/or severely reduce the effects of life-saving HIV medications.
After 1 year of evaluation, the results showed that meth users had a lower ratio of CD4/CD8 cells—immune cells playing an important role in HIV—indicating less resilience of the immune system.
A study conducted by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) examined a group of male gay drug users who were all HIV positive. The test group contained men who used meth, cocaine, pot, alcohol and various other party drugs. All were taking effective HIV medications and, upon starting the study, had low levels of the HIV virus in their blood.
After one year of evaluation, the results showed that meth users had a lower ratio of CD4/CD8 cells—immune cells playing an important role in HIV—indicating less resilience of the immune system. Additionally, these men had a measurably higher amount of HIV in their semen.
Spike of New HIV Infections in Younger Homosexuals
Right now, the highest level of risk reported belongs to the under-40 gay population in the western states, with the highest usage belonging to gay men between the ages of 17 and 29. This risk includes both risk of crystal meth addiction and risk of acquiring HIV. For those who are HIV negative, using crystal meth could potentially put them on the “fast track” to contracting the deadly virus.
For members of the gay community who are already HIV positive, using crystal meth speeds up the damage to their bodies and minds. Even with the most effective anti-viral drug cocktails, HIV positive people are susceptible to a host of brain and body illnesses. Weight loss, muscle deterioration and AIDS dementia are commonly advanced among members of the gay HIV positive community.
IV Meth Use On the Rise Among Gay Men
Research has shown that there is a serious uptick in the number of gay meth users injecting the drug. In fact, the number of men injecting (in a sexual context) quadrupled between 2011 and 2013, according to Antidote, a U.K. LGBT support service. The figures, compiled by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), seemingly back up experts’ warnings of a “meteoric rise” in the number of gay men injecting meth.
The IV trend—known as “slamming”—gives users an intense rush or high. Many gay men are tempted to inject meth at sex parties, which can go on for days. Those same experts warn that the IV meth use trend is likely linked to the disturbing rise of HIV infection rates among gay men.
Sex without Meth Can Feel Devastatingly Disappointing
Though quitting meth is hard for all users, it’s doubly hard for gay men. Meth causes an enormous surge of dopamine in the brain. This “feel good” chemical is responsible for the feelings of euphoria and sexual arousal meth is famous for. Using the drug enhances pleasure, eliminates sexual boundaries and makes even the shyest user feel like a social butterfly. Once the drug is no longer supplied, all those feelings disappear.
Once in recovery, most gay men wrestle with the fact that they can no longer sexually perform as they did while actively using meth. During the recovery process, they are faced with the reality that sober sex is much different than meth sex. And for some, the resulting sense of loss is too much to handle.
Since sexual activity places gay men at a high risk of relapse, most experts advise them to abstain from sex of any kind for at least one year. The resulting intimacy isolation can make it extremely difficult for gay men to stay off meth.