28 Oct Meth Makes Comeback in Gay Community
Methamphetamine, crystal meth or just meth in its illegal street form is a potent stimulant drug. It can be prescribed in rare cases but, for the most part, the side effects and highly addictive nature of the drug keep it from being used for medical purposes. As an illegal drug, meth gives users a potent high, gets them hooked quickly and ruins the mind and body. While it has largely seen a decrease in use across the country, it is making a tragic comeback among gay men.
What Is Meth?
Meth is the crystalline form of the stimulant methamphetamine. As a stimulant it causes a high and a euphoric sensation, but it also increases metabolism, heart rate and blood pressure. The high is quick and potent, but the user crashes soon after use. This typically leads the user to seek out another hit as soon as possible. The user gets stuck in a cycle of getting high and crashing. Over the long term, meth use causes a number of health problems including deterioration in the brain that can lead to psychosis, severe mood swings, violence, hallucinations, delusions and anxiety. Physical impacts include skin sores and infections, rotting teeth and severe weight loss.
Meth Use Among Gay Men
Most illegal meth is made in home labs using common chemicals. One key ingredient is the drug pseudoephedrine, used in many over-the-counter cold medicines. Restrictions on buying these cold medicines, put in place in the mid-2000s, made making meth more difficult. Use of the drug went down everywhere. In the last two years, however, it has made a comeback with gay men. Much of the product is coming from Mexico now and it has greater potency than what has typically been seen in the U.S.
Professionals who treat gay men for meth addiction have seen that the drug’s use goes hand-in-hand with sex, often with addictive sexual behaviors. Meth use can lead to a loss of inhibitions in combination with an increased libido. This means that meth users often make risky decisions, such as having unprotected sex, and the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV, is rising as a result.
The spread of sexually transmitted diseases is a major concern, but another issue is the effect of meth use on gay men who have already contracted HIV. Research has shown that meth worsens the symptoms of HIV and hastens the progression of the disease. Even when compared with HIV-positive men using other kinds of drugs, those using meth had lower T-cell counts and greater amounts of the virus in their bodies. Men with HIV and who use meth also showed greater declines in brain function and thinking skills.
Helping Gay Men in Recovery
Treatment programs target both meth use and sexual compulsion, as the two often go together. Treatment providers are also helping gay men with infections, like HIV, with medical treatments. These vulnerable men need care for their drug addictions, sexual addictions and physical diseases.
In addition to treatment, the gay community needs education, awareness and prevention. Many men who fall victim to meth addiction started using the drug to cope with negative feelings or low self-esteem. If these men can be reached and helped before turning to drugs, many lives could be saved. Educating the public and making everyone aware of the problem of meth use would be a good start.
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