Meth to the Madness :: The Return of the Drug Culture
Ice, sketch, Tina, glass, crank, speed; you can call it what you want but it’s all the same: Crystal Meth, the beast of the bathhouse.
Crystal Methamphetamine, more commonly referred to as Crystal Meth or crystal, is a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant that can be injected, snorted, smoked, or ingested orally and gay men - particularly young gay men in the club scene - around the country are using the drug at an alarming rate. Whether they are a "tweaked out twink" looking for a trick at an after-hours club or a so-called recreational user looking to lose their inhibitions at a sex party, young men use the effects of the drug (which can last from 20 minutes to 12 hours) to escape as they join an estimated 35 million users world-wide in tweaking away the days.
The love affair between crystal and gay men is hardly a new romance. A substantial body of data now confirms that sexual risk behaviors among gay and bisexual men have significantly increased over the last several years, in part due to the sexual disinhibition associated with the drugs use. According to the website Meth Kills - an online campaign against methamphetamine, in New York City, syphilis rates have doubled each of the last three years, with men who have sex with men accounting for virtually all of the increase in cases. Investigation by the City health authorities indicate that a syphilis diagnosis is strongly associated with crystal use, HIV seropositivity, and having sex in a bathhouse, at a sex party, or via an internet connection.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports crystal meth as the second most popular illegal substance in the world. Here in the U.S., the epidemic has grown in the last few years, moving eastward, from Hawaii to the West Coast, through the Midwest, and is now putting down roots in Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Atlanta, Miami and New York.
Why We Use
Gay men use crystal for the high. The rush. The euphoria. For many, sex is synonymous with speed. For many still, being gay is synonymous with sex, which is synonymous with crystal, which is...well, you can see where this is going. Simply put: the drug can make users feel like they are accepted, dance all night or all weekend and fuck like a champ. On the surface it is the damn near perfect drug.
Of course, that’s on the surface, and at first glance anything can seem like a dream. But, when drug counselors like Arnold Martin, program coordinator, Project NEON, a Seattle-based addiction services program for sexual minorities since 1993, take a closer look at crystal and its effect on gay men the answers aren’t as simple as one might imagine.
"A lot of ’users’ begin when they are young because they are dealing with self-esteem issues," explained Martin, who has overseen the crystal meth recovery program from eight years. Martin has experience working with groups of men in recovery and with addicts on a one-on-one basis. "For crystal addicts, the drug seems to hit that spot in the brain which allows the user to not think about life’s problems. It allows them the be that Superman with a boosted self-esteem - socially or sexually - in public or in private."
Like many major U.S. cities, Seattle has seen an increase in crystal use among gay men. In King County, about 10 percent of gay and bisexual men used crystal meth in a given year, according to date from Public Health - Seattle & King County. These rates are twice as high in men under the age of 30. "Drug dealers have found ways to move the drug to Seattle, usually trucked-in from Mexico, and we become the middle of the spider web for the Pacific Northwest," explained Martin. "Regardless of how it gets anywhere, the drug is highly addictive, cheap and easy to access. When the addiction hits a user will find a way to get it."
Nightclubs and bathhouses are a prime location for speed freaks when they are on the hunt for a fix. Users buy the drug in different amounts, but for a regular user, a quick "bump" in a bathroom stall can keep the party going for a few more hours until they post up at a drug party where they may smoke it from a glass pipe, slam it (inject the drug intravenously), or snort the crystals in a powder form. In extreme cases of addiction, users are known to abuse what’s known as a "trail mix," a mixture of crystal and cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, or crack cocaine - to name a few.