The Devastating Consequences of Meth Addiction on the Gay Community
There’s a health crisis wreaking havoc on the gay community and no one’s talking about it. And no, it’s not HIV – at least, not entirely. Since the late 1990s, meth has been the dirty little secret of countless gay and bisexual men looking to feel more confident and less inhibited in social settings.
In recent years, party and play events, in which attendees consume drugs and engage in group sex, have led to a spike in HIV infections, despite years of preventative efforts.
Today, with the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force, men are using video conferencing platforms like Zoom to host party and play events online. Video Conferencing has been an important component of party and play culture since the early 2010s. But these days, more and more men have completely stopped in-person meetups due to fears of contracting the coronavirus and of breaking social distancing rules.
In some regards, video calls are positive change because they help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and other sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, they’re a way of building community and easing the sting of social isolation for men who live alone. The downside is that solitary users are at a greater risk of overdose than those in a group setting, a fact that presents additional challenges for addicts and treatment centers.
For now, the future of party and play culture remains to be seen. But what’s clear is that although it’s only been around for two decades, meth has already become one of the most dominant and destructive drugs in the gay community, contributing to countless lost jobs, broken families and deaths.
So what is it about meth that makes it so appealing, and why are so many gay men getting hooked?
Meth Is Highly Addictive
To understand why meth has gained such a foothold in the gay community, it’s important to understand a bit about how meth affects the body.
Methamphetamine, or meth for short, is a highly addictive stimulant that provokes the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine. This makes users feel energized, euphoric, invincible and sexually aroused.
In normal quantities, dopamine is good for health. It motivates us to seek out and repeat pleasurable experiences essential for survival, such as eating and sex. These natural rewards elevate dopamine output by 150-300% and lead to a positive, happy mood.
For many users, the first meth high is the most intense. Afterward, they try to replicate the feeling but are unable to do so despite consuming greater and greater doses of the drug. This “chase” is one component of meth addiction.
Another component is that, over time, meth interferes with the brain’s natural dopamine production. As a result, users are unable to feel pleasure from any other activities, including sex, and turn to meth to fill the void.
What Makes Meth Sex So Appealing?
Under the influence of meth, the brain’s pleasure center is overstimulated. At the same time, negative feelings, like low self-confidence and anxiety, are muted. This causes users to experience extreme sexual desire and intense physical pleasure during sex.
Users describe meth sex as extraordinary, delicious, intense and powerful. They also appreciate its ability to unlock their deepest desires and give them the confidence to try things they wouldn’t do while sober. Many become hooked because they fear sober sex will be plain or boring compared to meth sex.
And they’re right, sober sex can’t compete with meth sex. The combination of meth and sex, both of which are extremely powerful reinforcers, creates a “super high” that’s more addictive than sex or drug use alone.
For these users, meth and sex are inseparable. If you or someone you love is struggling with meth addiction, help is just a phone call away.
Meth Sex And The Gay community
Meth and meth sex are widely accepted within the gay community. This is especially true in clubs, at house parties and at on-site sex venues, where drugs and sex have gone hand in hand since the 1970s. With the arrival of hook-up apps like Grindr, access to drugs and sex has become easier than ever before.
While ease of access is partially responsible for the explosion of meth addiction amongst gay men, the issue is more nuanced than that. For many, meth is the solution to two issues the community struggles with the most—vanity and sex.
Gay men report feeling intense pressure to be hot, party and have lots of sex. By taking meth, they feel more attractive, more sexually desirable and better able to participate in activities within the gay community.
For gay men who have internalized homophobia or who feel shame about their sexual desires, meth offers a temporary escape and a doorway to their wildest fantasies.
Why Is Meth Sex So Dangerous?
While all users appreciate the energy and confidence meth gives them, many ignore the dangerous short- and long-term consequences of meth sex.
In the short term, meth alters judgment and decision-making. As a result, users are more likely to engage in high-risk activities like unprotected group sex, putting them at risk for a variety of STDs.
Users are also at a greater risk of contracting blood-borne diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C because of the oral and genital cuts that result from the aggressive and prolonged nature of meth sex.
Over the long term, meth may worsen the progression of HIV/AIDS. Preliminary studies indicate that HIV causes more injury to nerve cells and more cognitive problems in people who use meth compared to HIV-positive people who don’t use meth.
Moreover, long-term meth use has been associated with decreased sexual functioning and intimacy issues.
Treatment For Meth Addiction
Despite its highly addictive nature, recovery from meth addiction is possible.
First and foremost, meth addiction treatment requires a safe, non-judgmental environment that promotes self-acceptance. While this is certainly true for gay men and other members of the LGBTQ community, there are additional considerations to keep in mind when treating this group.
Effective treatment for LGBTQ drug users must empathize with the trauma of societal homophobia they experience. In addition, the treatment center and staff must be gay-affirming and must avoid pathologizing gay sex or desire, including kink behaviors or fetishes.
At La Fuente Hollywood Treatment Center, we pride ourselves on being a national leader in LGBTQ-affirming rehab and treatment. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to stay on the cutting-edge of substance abuse and mental health research so that we can provide the best care possible to members of the LGBTQ community.
If you or your loved one needs help overcoming meth addiction, then contact us and let’s start your recovery process.