1. In one major study, 25% of gay men admitted to using the drug at least once. So if you know 4 gay men, one’s probably used and might still be using today.
2. Meth can be instantly addictive, like crack. Though most start off thinking we can control it with managed use, usually for sex, many of us become addicts within months, using daily within a year or less.
3. When tweaking, we not only stay up for days on end (say, 3 to 9), but can have repeated sexual marathons that last for hours and hours (say, 4 to 12). Meth is the perfect sex drug for gay men because, not only does it provide the unbridled energy of a teenager again, it instantly relieves all sexual inhibitions – such as any residual guilt from internalized homophobia we might have from our childhood. Imagine how alluring a drug would be that promised you intense sexual pleasure for hours. Strange love, indeed.
4. A a result of meth’s sexual inhibitions, it’s usage usually leads to unsafe, often dark and fetishized sex we wouldn’t normally consider. It is estimated that meth users are 5 times more likely to become HIV positive than those who don’t use.
5. In the gay community, using crystal often advances from snorting or smoking to “slamming,” which is slang for shooting up. (In a recent London study, it was estimated that 70% of gay men who use meth did so by injecting.) A lot of us upwardly mobile, educated gay men who would have laughed in your face at the mention of IV drug use beforehand find ourselves becoming junkies fast. You might have noticed those long-sleeve shirts on warm days.
6. Sex and shame, again, fuel our problem. It can and often is the slut shaming that keeps us dangerously in the closet about our meth problem, so please don’t slut shame us. The medical community considers addiction to be a “chronic disease,” just the same as high blood pressure or asthma. The difference between meth addiction and these other diseases is the location of the physical malfunction. With addiction, the malfunction is in the brain—so the illness affects feelings and behaviors. Because of this, some who don’t know any better view addiction as a moral issue, a matter of willpower or character. But the truth is: addiction is a biological process in a brain that is malfunctioning. You don’t blame someone with high blood pressure or asthma for the physical malfunction happening in their bodies. And you certainly don’t shame them for their disease.
7. With crystal meth, the dopamine released into the brain is up to 12 times of what the body can naturally produce. To put it in perspective, cocaine is 4 times.
8. It’s not just the young twenty-something party boys who are addicted. I started when I was 47 and almost lost everything before I was 50. The majority of gay men attending Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings in larger urban areas are in their 30s and 40s.
9. Though you hear horrible odds at recovery, the reality is millions of people worldwide have successfully quit meth. Your friend can too. But it helps to first be honest about having a problem. That’ll help you start a dialogue, which is crucial to the recovery process.
10. Let’s face it, the epidemic of crystal meth addiction is no less prevalent nor deadly than our first epidemic. And like HIV/AIDS in the early days, hardly any of the mainstream press is talking about it. The time has come for us to step out of the meth closet and face the reality.
11. You can help. Ask your gay friends point blank if they ever use meth for sex. (You might begin with empathy by admitting you, too, would be intrigued by a drug that offers hours and hours of sexual pleasure along with the energy of a twenty-something.) Know that most brain damage done by meth use can be healed completely. It’ll just take some time, usually no more than a year or two. But the sooner your friend gets serious about quitting, the more likely that healing will be quicker. Don’t let your gay friends keep this epidemic in the closet. Beginning an honest discussion about the problem today may save their lives.
12. There are many good online resources. For gay men and interested friends, tweaker.org and quttingcrystalmeth.com are two of the best places to start.