Image for Crystal Myth - A Fraction Too Much Fiction

Crystal Myth - A Fraction TooMuch Fiction

So much gets said about gays and drugs. Like Liza Minelli and homosexual husbands, the two often go hand in hand. We’re in the grip of an ice epidemic, we’re party obsessed, we’re promiscuous barebackers – all too often these are the stories that get us column inches.

Last week two new stories emerged, both from different parts of the world, both saying two very different things. A story from the New Zealand Herald said that gay people are four times more likely to take drugs than their straight counterparts. However, a story from America’s Windy City Times said that most gay people don’t actually take drugs at all.

New Zealand’s Massey University analysed government data from 15,000 people and found that while gays drank broadly similar quantities to straights, they also were twice as likely to use pot, and were 50% more likely to smoke tobacco. Gays were also four times more likely to use speed and acid and three times as likely to take pills.

According to Frank Pega, a spokesperson for the study, we’re all basketcases, running to the bottle because of discrimination. “Other research has already established that gay, lesbian and bisexual people’s substance use is related to their exposure to personal, institutional and societal discrimination… and to social stress arising from this experience,” he said. But is this the case? How many of us actually regard ourselves as victims?

If we jump over to America, Chicago to be specific, things are sounding a little different. Susan Kingston from the King County Department of Public Health in Seattle is an expert on crystal meth, and she’s one of a few who are bringing a breath of fresh air to the gay drug use debate. Crystal meth is being talked about as being the most addictive drug out there, the most impossible to treat and the worst drug to hit gay communities worldwide. According to Kingston, much of the so called ‘ice age’ is a media driven myth. She says that newspapers rarely report on the good news, and as such gay communities suffer the same blows time after time.

“I would be so excited if I heard… a gay newspaper say most gay men don’t use drugs [and] most gay men don’t have HIV; they take care of themselves sexually; they’re not reckless; they’re not irresponsible; they go to work; they shop for groceries; [and] they value love just like anybody else,” said Kingston during a public presentation last month. She says that the hype about crystal has led to it being demonised, even within the community, which stands in the way of those who need help, actually getting it.

“Before we answer the question what are we supposed to do about this meth thing, we really have to think about who we think gay men are. If you think gay men are pools of deficits, then crystal makes complete sense. On the other hand, if you think that gay men need to keep a squeaky-clean image, then anybody who picks up a meth pipe starts to be the deviant who’s making the rest of us look bad, and we need to shove him back into his hole. That’s what’s happening.”

According to Kingston, the worst drug to hit communities worldwide – gay or straight – is actually alcohol. Paul Dillon, formerly from NDARC and now with Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia, agrees wholeheartedly. “Alcohol continues to be the number one problem – it has been for a long time, it always will be. But no-one wants to deal with that because it’s at the heart of our community. If that went, what would happen? It’s not so much about gay culture, but more about Australian culture – it’s very hard to beat.”

After years of working in field of drug and alcohol, Dillon says that he’s often gotten upset by people making generalisations based on people who live in the ghetto. “There are many gay couples who live in the suburbs who would never even think about going to Oxford Street, or to a Mardi Gras. We tend not to talk about them and I think that’s quite sad,” says Dillon. “We have to be careful not to reinforce stereotypes. Absolutely there are people who have drug and alcohol problems in our community. But you have to put it into a context – we live in a society and society in general has a bit of a problem, truth be known.”

Dillon says that the gay community is often the group researchers target when they want information on current trends, because we’re usually more honest and as a community, we’re often at the forefront of trends. “This is why we know a lot more about drug use within the gay community than we do about other communities. One of the greatest problems with getting any information about gay men in particular, is where do you access these people from? If you look at much of the data that’s collected around gay men and drug use, it’s not taken across the general population, often it’s done through sex on premises venues, nightclubs, special events. Are you getting a wide cross section of people there? Perhaps not.”

At the end of the day, it’s about recognising that the ‘ice epidemic’ looks less like a plague, and more like a small group who have been affected in a big way. “If you look at the research use is going down, it’s peaked here and sure it’s caused all sorts of significant problems, but is it going to turn everyone into the Incredible Hulk? No, it’s not.”

What do you think? Where do we draw the line between fact and fiction? Are we as party and drug obsessed as people think? Have your say in the forums.

Comments

www.samesame.com.au arrow left
Comment Added
tarakel

tarakel said on the 11th Jul, 2007

People close to the crystal meth issue know that there's only one site that ever covered the topic in a balanced, intelligent way and that's All Positive Options. They are light-years ahead on this issue, and addiction and recovery in general.

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 11th Jul, 2007

A Herald investigation, "Missing Link to Crime Revealed" found a clear pattern of linkage between methamphetamine use and violent crimes which had been absent from official statistics. "SOME of the most brutal murders and assaults of the past five years h

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 11th Jul, 2007

...have been committed under the influence of methamphetamine..." The article lists murders, gang rapes, club shooting etc., all committed while the offenders were under the influence of 'ice'. The report goes on to fault the research by local academics l

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 11th Jul, 2007

...local academics like Dr Rebecca McKetin. I am not impressed by academics who can only understand theoretically those for whom they advocate. Thjere is no doubt that ice is pharmacologically unique, proven to be more addictive than any other drug a

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 11th Jul, 2007

and linked inextricably to psychosis, violence and HIV. And Susan Kingston sounds a little confused..... "She also pointed out that poppers are far more abused in the gay community than meth and are just as frequently associated with unprotected sex: “

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 11th Jul, 2007

I am not aware of popper psychosis, or that it is addictive, or that it is behind the kind of bizarre acts where children are savagely beaten, raped and strangled in Perth shopping arcade toilets etc. Actually the worst drug to be abused in the gay commu

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 11th Jul, 2007

is tobacco, but comparing it to meth would also be pointless.

Urban

Urban said on the 11th Jul, 2007

Queer academics and their opinions on meth have proven to be completely out of touch with reality. Kingston is in no personal position to comment about what gay men do – she ain’t one herself so is coming purely from textbookland. Most academic analys

Urban

Urban said on the 11th Jul, 2007

of gay meth abuse patterns is seriously flawed. True, Dillon’s comments about alcohol being a more widespread problem, but then this approach merely digresses from the problem that meth itself is – there’s always something more widespread than some

Urban

Urban said on the 11th Jul, 2007

something else but comparing apples and pears does zero except run away from talking about the price of apples. Both Kingston’s comparison with amyl (‘poppers’) and Dillon’s equivalent comparison with alcohol are a tad unthought through: neither

Urban

Urban said on the 11th Jul, 2007

alcohol nor poppers sends people on fortnight long sleep-free sexathons. Poppers has no addictive side nor does it last longer than a few seconds per hit. I haven’t heard of anyone losing their jobs, or becoming dysfunctional in any other similar way, f

Urban

Urban said on the 11th Jul, 2007

from poppers, or of a proven necessity for a global 12 step Poppers Anonymous movement. Meth may not be about to turn anyone into the ‘Incredible Hulk’ to use Dillion’s words, but it sure has the potential to turn them into the Grim Reaper.

Urban

Urban said on the 11th Jul, 2007

Huge amounts of resource has been invested globally by academics out to clear meth’s name, but most of those commentators are attached to the AIDS industry. If it fessed up to the severity of the issue it would have to do more to address it.

DanM82

DanM82 said on the 11th Jul, 2007

Unfortunately, I'd have to agree that a lot of gays do a lot of drugs. I've work in clubs since I was 18 abd have seen a lot of usage. Gays are addictive personalities. Explains the addiction to promiscuous behaviour.

DanM82

DanM82 said on the 11th Jul, 2007

It appears to be that gays have a mindset that they are different and so will behave different. This includes break social norms like drug usage and safer sex. It's something that needs to be addressed.

DanM82

DanM82 said on the 11th Jul, 2007

We are now in an ice age and there's no cute saber tooth squirrels merrily bouncing across the plains. Meth can cause damage, even if used just a little. Party safe, drive safe and fuck safe.

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 11th Jul, 2007

The myth that 'gay men can handle their drugs' was, by and large, true - until meth came along. This attitude of not wanting to demonise the drug or alienate users has inadvertently enable many to play with tina and become dependent. In 12 step groups it'

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 11th Jul, 2007

it's known as 'harm maintenance. One of the rights gay men are entitled to is HONEST information about their recreational drugs so that they may make an informed decision.

angy

angy said on the 12th Jul, 2007

Kickass story Christian! :)

mistrydip

mistrydip said on the 12th Jul, 2007

This article from Herald a couple of days ago is worth a read. It presents a logical argument about crystal rather than promoting the hysteria that has been so common place in recent articles dealing with this subject matter. The link to this is belw

mistrydip

mistrydip said on the 12th Jul, 2007

http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/putting-cause-and-effect-on-ice-to-work-on-solutions/2007/07/09/1183833427781.html

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 12th Jul, 2007

The author of that report, Rebecca McKetin, is the same aithor whose 'research' was ridiculed in the Herald investigation and by the police commissioner. The article is also vaguely ridiculous. For example, sure ice has been around for a long time, but no

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 12th Jul, 2007

not in the purity (80-90% base on the streets of the Cross right now) which is why it is now such a danger. The author of that report, Rebecca McKetin, is the same aithor whose 'research' was ridiculed in the Herald investigation and by the police commiss

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 12th Jul, 2007

commissoner is of the school that labelled ice 'just another party drug,' 'just a useful scapegoat', 'just the flavour of the month.' These 'academics should sit in on a meeting of CMA to get the true story.

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

What on earth is Rebecca McKetin getting at now? “Some people are predisposed to react to situations in a hostile manner. Ice users who are violent may be aggressive and antisocial to begin with.” If Mcketein has an ounce of hard evidence that peop

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

ctd...people NOT also using alcohol and NOT predisposed to aggression are NOT at risk of becoming aggressive and violent, let’s hear it. We’ll hear nothing because she hasn’nt an ounce of such evidence.

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

When she adds, “Violence among drug users can also have something to do with their involvement in buying or selling drugs. The violence may be related to a dispute over a drug deal rather than any pharmacological effect of the substance,” she is then

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

assuming that all users becoming violent are also traders – what utter nonsense! She hasn’t a scrap of evidence to show that aggressive ice users are dealers. This woman is a walking talking self-contradiction. Her comments to media have included:

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

“Almost 1 in 4 of our regular methamphetamine users in our survey had a symptom of psychosis in the past year ... About a quarter of the people who get the psychosis are quite aggressive and they will break furniture, yell at people and, in some cases,

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

might even assault people.” (The 7.30 Report: Crystal Meth Addiction On The Rise 02/05/2006); and: “However, it does appear that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the drug does increase the propensity for people to be violent in certain c

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

circumstances,” Commenting on the joint NDARC and NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research report, which did not find a 'causal link' between methamphetamine use and violence - despite showing meth arrests to have jumped by 250 percent in the last 10

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

years. “This is most likely to occur in chronic users of the drug, or particularly when chronic users are experiencing drug-induced psychosis.” Crystal Arrests Up 250 Percent, Sydney Star Observer19/10/2006).

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

She is now suggesting that such a small percentage of Australians are affected in this way that it is ‘fortunate’: “Fortunately, the risk of ice-related violence appears to be limited to heavy or chronic users of the drug, and only an estimated 0.7

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

per cent of Australians aged 15 to 49 years fit into this category.” Hasn’t she got a calculator handy to see just how many violent maniacs that makes running around our streets? I’d say that’s 0.7 per cent too many of our 15 to 49 year-olds.

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

Her next point is that: “The process of getting someone experiencing a psychosis into an ambulance or police vehicle to take them to hospital is very difficult because it involves handling the person and placing them in an enclosed space. This environme

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

environment can be very threatening to someone who is paranoid and can trigger or intensify violent behaviour. The chemical sedation and physical restraint sometimes applied to people with ice psychosis is so severe that 24-hour supervision is required. T

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

ctd...These procedures can also be traumatic and potentially lethal for the patient, so there is a need to weigh the risks of restraint and sedation with the potential harm if the person is left in the community.” What? Is she seriously suggesting we HA

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

HAVE an option to leave these dangerous people out there? She has completely missed the point when she says, “Drug treatment appears to be promising for reducing hostility among ice users,” when such treatemnt is a contemplated, long term decision ma

Urban

Urban said on the 13th Jul, 2007

made in the context of rehabilitation, NOT on the spot in a violent incident whilst intoxicated.

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 13th Jul, 2007

Yeah, well, I put Ms. McKetin in the same fuckwit basket as all those other 'experts' like acon, who don't seem to know their arse from their elbow. I've experienced addiction first hand and facilitated 12 steps groups for a couple of years, so I know tha

shaynesydney

shaynesydney said on the 13th Jul, 2007

... that these purveyors of dangerous misinformation barely parallel the real world.

jimjazz

jimjazz said on the 16th Jul, 2007

another class article christian...great to see some sane, balanced reporting rather than the hysteria...

tlogan83

tlogan83 said on the 13th Jan, 2014

Poppers are really good I think, only found 1 decent site to buy off in Australia though - www.poppers-australia.com.au - any others?