A recent study of people with HIV who use recreational drugs isn’t good news for tweakers: those who used crystal meth showed troubling blood test results as compared to those who used other drugs.
The study by the University of San Diego examined gay drug users who were HIV positive, including guys who used meth, cocaine, pot, alcohol and various other party drugs. All of them were on effective treatment and had low levels of virus in their blood.
But the similarities ended there. Meth users had lower t-cell counts (a number that gauges the health of the immune system) and more measurable HIV in their semen. Good T-cell counts are seen as critical to long term health with HIV. It isn’t yet clear if the amount of HIV in semen means the person is more infectious. The one-year study defined meth use as at least one reported use during the study period.
Meth is notorious for creating confusion and hyperactivity in addicts (if you’ve been around someone who was “tweaking” you get the picture), so it’s reasonable to assume the meth users in the study didn’t take their meds as regularly. But, according to the research, the meth users reported as much adherence to their medications as the other drug users in the study. The study results suggested to researchers that meth may do something damaging to the cells that other drugs do not.
Meth is viewed as a strong factor in becoming infected with HIV in the first place, due to its lowering of inhibitions and its reputation as a sex drug. The new study suggests that using meth doesn’t do your health any favors after you get infected, either.
Gay men report higher levels of drug and alcohol addiction than men in general, with crystal meth becoming a particularly destructive force during the last 15 years. Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings are thriving in most major cities in the United States.
If you or someone you know might have a problem with meth, a good place to start is www.crystalmeth.org or contact your local chapter of Narcotics Anonymous.