Crystal Meth & New York’s LGBT Community
What is Crystal Meth?
Methamphetamine, or Crystal Meth, is a powerfully addictive stimulant that has been sweeping through communities across the United States, including New York City’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community – specifically, among gay and bisexual men.
Crystal Meth users are of all races and ages, and they are drawn to the drug for a wide variety of reasons. Many gay and bisexual men use Crystal Meth to lower their social anxiety and to seek intimacy and connection with other gay men. Deep-seated feelings of isolation – often a result of cultural and political intolerance toward the LGBT community – can render gay and bisexual men particularly vulnerable to the drug’s euphoric, liberating effects.
How is Crystal Meth Affecting New York’s LGBT Community?
In a 2006 survey of gay and bisexual men in New York City, approximately one in four indicated the use of Crystal Meth in the period of six months prior to the assessment.1
A previous study estimated this figure to be 14 percent – making New York second only to San Francisco as the United States city with the greatest number of gay and bisexual men who use Crystal Meth.2
How is Crystal Meth Linked to the Transmission of HIV and Other STDs?
Studies show that HIV-positive men are more likely than HIV-negative men to use Crystal Meth.1 Coupled with the fact that Crystal Meth users are more likely than non-users to engage in unsafe sex, the link between Crystal Meth and the transmission of HIV becomes clear.
For HIV-positive users, Crystal Meth can accelerate the progression of HIV to AIDS. The drug interferes with HIV medication and can also make the user forget to take them at all. And because Crystal Meth can be injected, the risk for HIV infection increases not only through unsafe sex, but through needle sharing as well.
Crystal Meth is also associated with the spread of other sexually transmitted diseases among gay and bisexual men, including syphilis, Chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Because of its potent effect on sex drive, Crystal Meth users often have more sexual partners than non-users.2
What are the Long-Term Effects of Crystal Meth Abuse?
Chronic Crystal Meth users often embark on binges that last from a few days to two weeks; the user foregoes food and sleep with constant use of the drug. The behavior associated with such excessive abuse are intense paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations, and violently out-of-control behavior.
Of course, Crystal Meth affects not only the user, but the friends, family and coworkers of the user, as well. Users have a tendency to withdraw from their social network and isolate themselves from nonusers as their addiction grows. Counseling and support are needed at this level of addiction, which the Center is qualified to provide.
1 Halkitis, P.N., Schilinger. J, Moeller, R.W., Siconolfi, D.E. and Jerome, R.C. (2006) Methamphetamine and poly-drug use among health seeking gay and bisexual men in NYC. New York University Center for Health Identity, Behavior and Prevention Studies, NYC Dept. of Health and Mental Hygiene and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (in press).
2 CDC National HIV Behavioral Surveillance Survey, 2004.
Local (NYC) Resources:
Download the Meth Factsheet (PDF). Provided by the The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
208 West 13th Street, New York City 10011
- GMHC Substance Use Counseling & Education (SUCE)
GMHC Hotline: 1.800.AIDS.NYC (1.800.243.7692)
- Harlem United Community AIDS Center
306 Lenox Avenue, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10027
Ph: 212.803.2880 x896
- New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Dial 311 or 1.800.LifeNet
- Michael Callen-Audre Lorde Community Health Center
356 West 18th Street, New York City 10011
- New York City Crystal Meth Anonymous
- The Addiction Center, 1-800-586-9670, 424 E. Central Blvd., Orlando, FL 32801
- Drug Rehab Connections: Meth Treatment and Rehab