Three years after Owen Jones met an ex-boyfriend, he was stunned to see that the once “sporty, a bit of a health freak” guy he knew now had “dilated pupils, red marks on his arms, and his head jerked erratically as he spoke manically.” As it turns out, the ex was addicted to crystal methamphetamine and abused alcohol and other substances.
An Increasing Trend
This case was just one of an increasing number emerging in the last couple of years in the LGBT community. HIV infection is no longer at the forefront of the communities’ worries – addiction now is.
As far back as 2003, a survey revealed that young homosexual men are more likely to use drugs than straight males.
“Nearly one-third of men surveyed in the United States who had sex with other men said they used drugs at least once a week, and lifetime use of cocaine was nearly twice as high as that of the general age-group,” a publication noted. “Two out of three of the men said that they had used drugs in the previous six months.”
Fast forward a decade later, a 2-year survey revealed similar results, albeit with an increasing trend. It found that more than a third of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals surveyed used at least one illicit substance in the last month. One in five had symptoms of drug or alcohol dependency.
“The most widely used substances among those surveyed were party drugs such as cannabis and poppers, followed by powder cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine and amphetamines,” another news outlet revealed. “They were 10 times more likely to have used cocaine in the last month than the wider population, and 13 times more likely to have used ketamine. Heroin use was comparable among both populations, but the use of crack cocaine was again higher among the gay community.”
Jones described this alarming situation as “a silent health crisis” affecting gay males. It begs the question: why do so many gay males fall into this destructive trap? Attitude editor Matthew Todd identifies shame as one of the main culprits.
“It is a shame with which we were saddled as children, to which we continue to be culturally subjected,” Todd noted. In other words, the shame resulting from a lack of social acceptance of gay people is pushing these men to develop these harmful addictions.
“The stress that comes from daily battles with discrimination and stigma is a principle driver of these higher rates of substance use, as gay and transgender people turn to tobacco, alcohol, and other substances as a way to cope with these challenges,” explained another piece. “And a lack of culturally competent health care services also fuels high substance-use rates among gay and transgender people.”
It has been suggested that the health care system of the country be improved in order to better meet the needs of those in the LGBT community who are dealing with substance addiction. There is also a need for society to take responsibility in helping reduce the risk for addiction among the LGBT community by considering them as equals.