Myths and Realities of Gay Meth Use

There has been a lot of concern in the addiction research field about the so-called epidemic of gay meth use. Some gay men may even be feeling peer pressure to use meth and to "party and play," to be part of the gay scene. But research tells a different story — it turns out that meth use is not necessarily part of a gay lifestyle. In fact, only a minority of gay men use meth.


Myth: All Gay Men Take Meth

Gay Male Couple Holding Hands

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Reality: Studies have been carried out in the U.S. and Australia showing as many as 75% of gay men use meth. However, even these estimates range from 10-75%. And in other countries, the rates of meth-using gay men are lower — about 4% in the UK (up to 13% of gay men living in London, particularly among those who are HIV positive).

This means that of the gay men who have been studied, the number using meth is consistently less than half, and in some places, the vast majority of gay men, around 85-95%, do not use meth.


Myth: Meth Is the Drug of Choice Among Gay Men

Reality: Studies show that among gay men, the use of many other drugs surpasses that of meth. For example, in a study of gay men in the UK, 20% use cocaine, and 21% use cannabis, compared to only 12% of the sample who use meth.

Research also shows that most gay men attending parties where meth is available neither intend to take the drug nor feel pressure to do so.


Myth: Meth Is the Drug Most Associated With Unprotected Anal Sex

Reality: There are many drugs that are associated with high-risk behaviors, such as unprotected anal sex, including alcohol, cannabis, poppers, cocaine, amphetamines, and Viagra, as well as meth. Steering clear of all of these drugs is an important part of staying safe from HIV and hepatitis infection.

If you need to use drugs to enjoy anal sex, perhaps you should ask yourself whether you are really comfortable with this activity at all — it isn't compulsory!


Myth: Meth Makes Gay Sex More Enjoyable

Reality: While getting high on meth has been reported to be associated with extended and enhanced sex marathons, meth can also cause impotence, and for some men, ruins the sexual experience when not on meth.

In fact, the effects of meth are extremely unpredictable, and may not put you in the mood for sex at all.

And the detrimental effects that meth has on people's appearance and mental functioning take its toll on your attractiveness. Unfortunately, meth users in recovery report that these negative changes to their appearance are often not perceived by meth users themselves at the time they are using.


Myth: Meth Makes You Feel Better About Being a Gay Man

Reality: Like many drugs that produce temporary euphoria and distort your perception of reality, meth can provide a brief vacation from the emotional difficulties associated with being gay in a heterosexist culture, particularly for gay men who have not come to terms with their sexuality. But once the drug wears off, you can feel worse than ever. 

The crash experienced after you come down, added to the stigma of drug use and unresolved feelings about being gay, lead to the term "suicide Tuesday" because of how the comedown feels on the Tuesday after a weekend of meth use.

Counseling is a much more effective way of coming to terms with your gay identity.

Ignore Peer Pressure to Use Meth

Although a minority of gay men use meth, even in places where it is more common, most gay men don't use meth. Overall, meth is likely to make you feel worse, not better. Ignore pressure to use this dangerous drug, knowing that if you are told it is something all gay men are doing, you are hearing a myth.

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  1. Solomon TM, Halkitis PN, Moeller RM, Siconolfi DE, Kiang MV, Barton SC. Sex parties among young gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in New York City: attendance and behavior. J Urban Health. 2011;88(6):1063-1075. doi:10.1007/s11524-011-9590-5

  2. Roxburgh A, Lea T, de Wit J, Degenhardt L. Sexual identity and prevalence of alcohol and other drug use among Australians in the general population. Int J Drug Policy. 2016;28:76-82. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.11.005

  3. Daskalopoulou M, Rodger A, Phillips AN, et al. Recreational drug use, polydrug use, and sexual behaviour in HIV-diagnosed men who have sex with men in the UK: results from the cross-sectional ASTRA study. Lancet HIV. 2014;1(1):e22-e31. doi:10.1016/S2352-3018(14)70001-3

Additional Reading
  • Aguilar, J., & Sen, S. "The culture of methamphetamine: Reframing gay men’s methamphetamine use," Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 23:370–382. 2013.
  • Bonell, C., Weatherburn, P., Rhodes, T., Hickson, F., Keogh, P. & Elford J. "Addressing gay men's use of methamphetamine and other substances." Addiction Research and Theory 16(5): 417-420. 2008.
  • Halkitis, P., Mukherjee, P., & Palamar, J. "Longitudinal modeling of methamphetamine use and sexual risk behaviors in gay and bisexual men." AIDS Behav 13:783-791. 2009.
  • Semple, S., Zians, J., Strathdee, S. & Patterson, T." Sexual marathons and methamphetamine use among HIV-positive men who have sex with men." Arch Sex Behav 38:583–590. 2009.
  • Shelton, M. Gay Men and Substance Use: A Basic Guide for Addicts and Those Who Care For Them. Center City: Hazelden. 2011.