Death of the party

STUDY: Meth Is The Most Damaging Drug For Gay Men With HIV

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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 or contact your local chapter of Narcotics Anonymous.

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  • Caleb in SC

    File this under “No, shit.”

  • MikeE

    @Caleb in SC: ROFL

    I was going to post “we needed a study for this?”

  • Mark

    @Caleb in SC: Yeah, I know it seems obvious, but what I found interesting was that, all things among party drug users being equal, meth seems to have specific, damaging effects to the immune system (and may affect how HIV replicates) that other party drugs do not. That, and any reason to remind gay men we have a meth problem in our community and how to find help, well, that’s okay by me.

  • Ben Dover

    Meth – the classic “drug of choice” of: (1) Hillbillies, rednecks and “trailer trash” types; (2) Gay men?

    This has never quite made sense, so let’s take ourselves out of this stereotype!

    @Mark: You make a great point, and as you probably know, too many counselors and therapists take the blanket approach of seeing all the party drugs as equally damaging. Not true!

  • Mdterp01

    Does anyone know why crystal meth in particular became synonymous with the gay community? How did it become popular?

    Coke has only ever been my drug of choice. I tried marijuana and it makes me sick and am not a depressant kind of guy. All drugs are bad, but some drugs I feel are just too risky, and the ingredients and methods of taking it make them too dangerous. I never had the desire to stick a needle in my arm or get high off of some crap I can get from underneath my kitchen sink. Definitely would never smoke cocaine, but there are still negatives about snorting it. I used to be heavy into it in college and have definitely slowed down now that I’m in my 30s. I may do it 4 times a year now. I know…I know I sound like a drug snob…like “my drugs are better than your drugs” but some drugs are clearly more dangerous and addictive than others.

  • Horse Lips

    File under “Things We Already Knew”.

  • Merv

    It’s very frustrating to see the self-destructive tendencies of some in the gay community.

  • CCTR

    @Mdterp01: “Does anyone know why crystal meth in particular became synonymous with the gay community? How did it become popular?”

    “due to its lowering of inhibitions and its reputation as a sex drug”…some users claim that their sexual appetites become insatiable…think bathhouses and sex clubs

  • Ben Dover

    @CCTR: I doubt that bathhouses / sex clubs are the villains here. They all forbid drug use – insurance liability issues, for one thing – and although there are closed-door rooms, the walls don’t go anywhere near the ceiling. (You sound like someone who’s never actually been to those places.) Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but meth has a very distinctive, noxious odor that would be obvious in a bathhouse setting?

    Also those places tend to be fairly expensive and have time limits, usually 6 or 8 hours. I’m told that part of the “appeal” of meth is the endless, interminable nature of the orgies – which would of course be much easier in shabby, filthy apartments via online hookups.

    @Mdterp01: Why is meth so popular with gay men? Well, a former meth addict told me, in all seriousness, that he was kind of glad about the experience because it caused him to lose all his teeth, so now he was a better c*cksucker! … That’s ONE theory…

  • CMA UK

    Can we also mention for your international readers that Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings can be found in cities across Canada, Australia as well as in London, UK.

  • Mark

    @Ben Dover: While the “villain” isn’t bath houses, the fact they put up signs forbidding drug use hardly curbs that activity. There was plenty of privacy in the rooms for former addicts like myself and my friends to use there. Not only is the smoke from a meth pipe very unapparent (less than a cigarette) in that environment, there are other ways to ingest it that don’t create smoke at all. Oh, and 6 to 8 hours is a nice stop-in for an addict, or you just renew your room. Just sayin’. :)

  • rcblue73

    Never been into drug use and have been painfully naive about it. In the past few years however I’ve had a neighbor whose behavior and that of his friends made his drug use obvious. Gradually learned that he’s a tweaker (didn’t even know what that meant). Had some conversations with him about some political issues and about some gay topics I find interesting and found all that stuff was a joke to him. He feels he’s no longer gay and beyond all that gay and political stuff. His world is primarily about “partying” and now involves a lot of straight women who like to party (and often provide money to purchase meth or whatever). Apparently when he’s wired he loses his sexual identity and it’s all about screwing “holes”, it doesn’t matter who or what has one – after one very noisy incident other neighbors told me he and three other guys had been ‘banging’ a young woman in his apartment. Interesting what I learned about the straight women hanging with him, they all seem to have a fetish about gay men, like to “party” (meth) and are convinced that HIV doesn’t affect straight women (well, only black women cuz they’re ‘not as clean’). The neighbor can be a very charming guy (when he’s not super hyper) but my impression of him is that he’s one massive disaster waiting to happen.

  • Mdterp01

    @Ben Dover:

    Why is meth so popular with gay men? Well, a former meth addict told me, in all seriousness, that he was kind of glad about the experience because it caused him to lose all his teeth, so now he was a better c*cksucker! … That’s ONE theory…

    Queerty needs emoticons because this is a perfect facepalm moment. REALLY?!!! Thats so sad. Drug addiction is a very powerful thing.


    Ok yeah I just read something that talked about some guys saying that sex on crystal meth was so good that without it they thought sex was boring. Tempting but still not going to try it. I heard the high off heroin is great but again I’m still not sticking a needle in my arm. I can definitely see how one can be addicted though if the sex is that good that in turn sex w/o doing it is boring. What happened to plain old ecstacy? I thought that heightened sex and lowered inhibition?

  • seaguy

    Meth has probably been popular with the gay community due to it’s ability to make you forget about your troubles. When you get high you want to have sex, watch porn, not think about the stuff that has been troubling you like issues with coming out, discrimination and bullying that tends to affect gays more. That and the fact that it is easily procured, and a cheaper easier to hide high than other drugs.

    I’m 41 and crystal has been around in the “community” since i started going to the bars 20 years ago. Back then it was not so big with straight people. There were not all the news stories of parents neglecting kids cause they were meth addicts. That has brought it more out in the open. But to me the news about crystal being bad is old news and anyone who thinks otherwise needs to get their head out of the sand and wake up!

  • seaguy

    @Merv: The straight community has people with self destructive behaviors all communities do. Not fair to call out the gay community as if we are alone in having that.

  • aquatarkus

    Meth is nothing,but EVIL!!!I come from North Georgia where “Methamphetamines” were always hugely popular before I was ever born,and that was in 1972,and I’ll soon be 42 years old this coming July…It was,and I suppose still very cheap,and easy too make,and there were a million different ways too make it,and especially back then in the late 80’s when I was a teenager in High School long before I came out it was “Quite Literally Everywhere”…Yes it lowers inhibitions,lasts longer,makes the hunger for sex,and any kind of sick kinky thing you can think of sound normal,and fun,and will quite literally take you too another dimension,or drive you insane if you can stay up a few days,weeks,months,or even years without sleeping-eating,or sleeping-eating very,very,very,little…That is of course if you don’t either die out-right from your “Heart-Bursting”,or any other over-dose-drug-re-lated-death,or you can have a complete-nervous-break-down,or get shot by a paranoid friend,family member,or any other crazy domestic/non-domestic violent thing you can think off,and also just like drunk driving you can get killed by being strung-out in an automobile…Sometimes not all of these things in order…LOL…You could always snort-it,eat-it,smoke-it,and or mainline it which I never did because I knew I would like it way,way too much,but I did have friends who did…Most these folks are Straight…I fooled around with meth off,and on from the time I was 15 years old till I was in my mid-twenties until my mind,and health simply could not handle it anymore…I finally came out in my late 20’s,and switched too “Alcohol”,and Lot’s of Sex”,but wasn’t surprised too see meth,or coke,or any other drug out there in the club scene,because it was in every scene “Gay,or Straight”…I’ve been very lucky not oversdosing,or even catching a sexually-transmitted-disease having unprotected sex whether I was on meth,alcohol,or any other drugs,or not…But yes Methamphetamines have,and can cause even normal immune-systems too weaken terribly,and or virtually break-down…

  • aquatarkus

    You do it at your own risk!!!

  • lagunaflipsta

    Meth takes away the insecurities especially in our community where it’s about looks.

  • Mdterp01


    And I bet thats probably the biggest one. That season on Queer As Folk when Ted was hooked on crystal meth and was hooking up and having orgies I think he felt wanted and accepted and for the first time, and all of those insecurities he had about himself didn’t exist while he was tweaked out. Unfortunately, it almost destroyed him in the process.

  • oilburner


  • Mark

    @oilburner: Yeah, I used to think that having sex with “incredibly hot guys” who were also drug addicts was pretty cool, too. But, while I was busy making a fool of myself in the bedroom, my addiction was sneaking out the door with my life.

  • Tackle

    @Mark: It’s refreshing and interesting that a Queerty editor is so open and honest about his life experiences with drug use.

  • Stache1

    I lived in SF back in the mid 90’s. Apparently meth had just been introduced a few years back and boy was the scene ripe for a drug like that. From what I understand the people were ready to forget the last decade and wanted an escape. It came about at the same exact time that the all night/wknd parties started. It was the fuel that made this whole new world of adult fantasies possible.

    I remember watching friends I know die one after the other. Some were from drug over doses while others the HIV + Meth was just as deadly. One died of pneumonia complications while the other was from KS. He was only 27 years old too. I remember Alex coming to my door for one last party. I couldn’t do it though. He was a walking skeleton at that point. KS all over his body and face. He knew he was going to die and apparently just wanted to have one more party wknd. He died in his sisters arms two weeks after that. I still have allot of guilt that I didn’t try to get him any help. I was just too young and stupid myself I guess. I didn’t want that kind of ugliness around me. Just the pretty party people only. Looking back what a horror show it all was.

    By 2000 I had enough and moved back to Seattle. Unfortunately, Meth had moved there a year or 2 before and guess what? We now had clubs opening that went beyond the 2 am limit to all night ones to cater to this new demographic. The circuit scene had made it to Seattle. I’ve moved again since but imagine now you can add NA meetings to that list.

  • Stache1

    @oilburner: I had extremely low self esteem and rarely hooked up. I was never a bad looking guy but when I found meth I was a 10. It was like someone giving you the keys to whole other universe of fantasy where you were now the popular one. Hot guys found me interesting and wanted me as much as I wanted them. I had lots of energy for them all too:) Seriously, who wouldn’t want that. Well, till it started to get ugly. My idea of hot eventually changed to whoever had a good supply of Meth.

  • Tackle

    @Stache1: Hey thank for posting the video documentary. Interesting and insightful into the meth world. I watched it twice already.

  • Mark

    @Tackle: Thanks, Tackle. Queerty kindly asked that I contribute health-related items like this one from time to time, and I’m an open book, yes. (In fact, if you play the “Meth” documentary above, the first face you will see is mine.)

    I consider it a privilege to talk openly about HIV and addiction issues, because I can do it today without shame or consequence.

  • Stache1

    @Tackle: You’re welcome but of coarse any and all accolades belongs to Mark for participating in such a great award winning documentary:)

  • Tackle

    @Stache1: I agree, and I do commend Mark and the other participants for their bravery, and honesty in allowing us into their lives. Without, this amazing documentary would not have been possible. Hats off to all.

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