There has been a lot of concern in the addiction research field about the epidemic of gay meth use. Some gay men may even be feeling peer pressure to use meth, and to "party and play," to be part of the gay scene. But research tells a different story -- it turns out that meth use is not necessarily part of a gay lifestyle. In fact, only a minority of gay men use meth.
1. Myth: All gay men take meth
Reality: Studies have been carried out in the U.S. and Australia showing as many as 40% of gay men use meth. However, even these estimates range from 10-40%. And in other countries, the rates of meth-using gay men are lower -- about 4% in the UK (up to 13% of gay men living in London, particularly among those who are HIV positive). This means that of the gay men who have been studied, the number using meth is consistently less than half, and in some places, the vast majority of gay men, around 85-95%, do not use meth.
2. Myth: Meth is the drug of choice among gay men
Reality: Studies show that among gay men, use of many other drugs surpasses that of meth. For example, in a study of gay men in the UK, 90% use alcohol, 40% use inhalants, and 28% use cannabis, compared to only 4% of the sample who use meth.
3. Myth: Meth is the drug most associated with unprotected anal sex
Reality: There are many drugs that are associated with high-risk behaviors, such as unprotected anal sex, including alcohol, cannabis, poppers, cocaine, amphetamines and Viagra, as well as meth. Steering clear of all of these drugs is an important part of staying safe from HIV and hepatitis infection. And if you need to use drugs to enjoy anal sex, perhaps you should ask yourself whether you are really comfortable with this activity at all -- it isn't compulsory!
4. Myth: Meth makes gay sex more enjoyableReality: While getting high on meth has been reported to be associated with extended and enhanced sex marathons, meth can also cause impotence, and for some men, ruins the sexual experience when not on meth. In fact, the effects of meth are extremely unpredictable, and may not put you in the mood for sex at all. And the detrimental effects that meth has on people's appearance and mental functioning takes its toll on your attractiveness. Unfortunately, meth users in recovery report that these negative changes to their appearance are often not perceived by meth users themselves at the time they are using.
5. Myth: Meth makes you feel better about being a gay man
Reality: Like many drugs that produce temporary euphoria and distort your perception of reality, meth can provide a brief vacation from the emotional difficulties associated with being gay in a heterosexist culture, particularly for gay men who have not come to terms with their sexuality. But once the drug wears off, you can feel worse than ever. The crash experienced after you come down, added to the stigma of drug use and unresolved feelings about being gay, lead to the term "suicide Tuesday" because of how the comedown feels on the Tuesday after a weekend of meth use. Counseling is a much more effective way of coming to terms with your gay identity.
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Shelton, M. Gay Men and Substance Use: A Basic Guide for Addicts and Those Who Care For Them. Center City: Hazelden. 2011.
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