The US’ Gay and Lesbian Medical Association has reiterated that the use of crystal meth – known as “tic” in South Africa – remains a public health crisis in that country. The organisation expressed concern over recent media coverage of a study which downplays the extent of methamphetamine use in the US.
A widely published June 14 Associated Press article reported on a recent study which found that 0.2% of Americans are regular users of crystal meth. Neither the study nor media coverage about it addressed methamphetamine use by gay and bisexual men.
Studies have found that methamphetamine use among gay and bisexual men is up to ten times higher than in the general population. A 2003 study by the Chicago Department of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that approximately 10% of gay men had used methamphetamine at least once in the previous year, compared with 0.7% of the general US population. Of those gay men who reported using meth, 20% were using at least once per week. Another study found that 20% of young gay and bisexual men had used crystal meth in the previous six months, with 6% reporting daily use.
Methamphetamine has been linked to high risk sexual activity. A study conducted in 2000-01 by the University of California San Francisco AIDS Health Project, the CDC, and the San Francisco Department of Public Health found that gay men who used meth were three times as likely to contract HIV as non-meth users. Meth use has also been linked to a resurgence of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia infections.
“Meth use among gay and bisexual men is a public health crisis, and media attention about crystal meth should reflect this,” said Joel Ginsberg, GLMA’s Executive Director. “HIV/AIDS didn’t get the attention it deserved early on in part because many people felt it wasn’t their problem. The result was a huge amount of avoidable suffering and expense. We can’t make that mistake again.”
GLMA is currently conducting a study examining crystal meth use among gay and bisexual men and best options for treating meth addiction. The study results will be released in August.