Gay men in America currently enjoy more freedom and acceptance than at any time in our nation’s history. But while not everyone in the gay community is willing to admit it, there is a significant “party” culture that inhabits the homosexual community in America and still lies outside the mainstream of American culture. While this is not a problem in and of itself, high levels of drug abuse and drug addiction are common among these nightlife scenes – where a more hedonistic spirit dominates the environment.
The Origins of Gay Drug Use
For many young gay men, the use of drugs begins in the teenage years. This is a time of great confusion and emotional pan for many gay men who are struggling with isolation from family and friends because of their sexuality. Society places a great deal of pressure on young gay men who have not yet come out of the closet. Confused and lacking guidance or support, many will turn to drugs as a means of self-medicating their pain.
This creates a series of bad habits that can continue on well into adulthood. And when that gay man comes of age in a community with a heavy night-life scene – and drugs available at every turn – they will be that much more likely to abuse or become addicted because of their background.
Drugs, parties and promiscuity
Among gay men, the “Party and Play” scene has been growing in popularity over the past decade. These sessions, which are generally organized on Craigslist or other websites feature intense drug taking and sex with multiple partners. Crystal meth and ecstasy are the drugs of choice for these “instant parties” because of their psychotropic effects, and in the case of crystal meth, their ability to help people stay awake well into the night and prevent ejaculation during sex.It is of course the dangerous cloud of unprotected sex with multiple partners that hangs over these Party and Play gathering. Although significant enhancements have been made in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, and a diagnosis of the disease is no longer the death sentence it once was, the fact remains that the disease is still a threat to the gay community, and is only exacerbated by the use of crystal meth and other drugs.
Drug Abuse in Predominantly Gay CommunitiesGay communities such as New York City’s Greenwich Village or Los Angeles’ West Hollywood are home to a number of bars and clubs that cater exclusively to gay men. It is the safety and inclusiveness of these neighborhoods that seems to inspire such heavy drug use. Individuals who may have long been ostracized in their own small town come to the “big city” and find a welcoming environment where, for the first time, everyone is just like them. This comfort level leads individuals to release their inhibitions more than they generally would – which can lead to drug abuse. As a result, party drugs and stimulants tend to thrive in these areas. Another factor to consider is the collective use of drugs in the party scenes of these communities. When drugs are taken by an individual in isolation, there is still a stigma to the behavior that keeps many from using and therefore developing an addiction. In the gay nightlife scene, however, there is a “community feel” to the use of crystal meth and other drugs. This puts an inherent stamp-of-approval on the behavior that makes it difficult for many gay men to abstain or seek out drug rehab treatment. Many rehab facilities report high levels of relapse among gay men because they fear being ostracized from their peer groups or being unable to take part in the social activities that they enjoy. Because drug addiction is a group problem, it is up to the gay community as a whole to change the behavior of its citizens. Until this community stands up and says “crystal meth is bad” in a committed, organized way, the levels of addiction – and subsequent health problems – will continue on at a high level.
Treating Drug Addiction in the Gay CommunityBecause of their unique place in American society, gay men may benefit from drug addiction treatment programs that are geared specifically for them. Unfortunately, with exception of facilities located in large cities with considerable GLBT communities, few such treatment facilities currently exist. Instead, gay men seeking drug rehab are best served by addiction treatment facilities that understand their special needs and often “programs within the program” that are designed to address gay-specific issues. It is important to ask the admission personnel at any drug rehab facility a few simple questions:
- Are there any members of the treatment staff who are gay, or have experiencing treated homosexuals in recovery?
- Does the facility see a considerable number of gay men and women come through the program?
- Are there counseling sessions designed to meet the needs of the gay addicts?