Although opioid misuse has gained more attention in recent decades, other types of drug addiction persist. Methamphetamine addiction has emerged as a particular problem in the gay community.

What is meth?

Methamphetamine, commonly known as meth (as well as chalk, crank, crystal, ice, and speed), is a highly addictive drug that creates an intense high. Methamphetamine is chemically similar to amphetamine, which can be used to treat narcolepsy or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Meth users may inject, smoke, or snort the drug, or consume it in pill form. The particular form of crystal methamphetamine is so called because it looks like glass or shiny, blue-white rocks.

Much of the meth used in the United States is smuggled in from other countries, but some U.S. “superlabs” also manufacture the drug and send it overseas. In February 2019, officials intercepted 1.7 tons of meth bound for Australia from California, hidden in a shipment of loudspeakers.

Some smaller meth labs do operate in the United States, as seen in the popular TV series “Breaking Bad.” These manufacturers use inexpensive ingredients like pseudoephedrine, found in some over-the-counter cold medicines.

What are the effects of meth?

Smoking or injecting meth creates an intense high that can last 8-12 hours. Swallowing it in pill form can create a less-intense high. Users may go on a binge that involves taking meth continually for days at a time, without eating or sleeping.

Using meth increases dopamine, a natural chemical involved in motivation and rewarding behaviors in the brain. This reinforces the drug-taking behavior.

Where is meth commonly used among gay men?

After several years of decline, meth use has increased in recent years. Because it can decrease inhibitions and increase libido, many gay men may become addicted to meth.

One stereotype of meth is that it is most often used in rural communities, but the drug has seen increasing use in both rural and urban areas.

What are the signs of meth use in gay men?

Just a small amount of meth use in gay men can create effects similar to other stimulants, such as:

  • Wakefulness and physical activity
  • Lower appetite
  • Faster breathing
  • Faster, irregular heartbeat
  • Higher blood pressure and body temperature
  • Euphoria (extreme happiness)
  • Increased confidence
  • Excitement, anger, irritation, or anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Unpredictable behavior

Physical signs of meth use among gay men

Once the short-term effects wear off, a meth user may go unnoticed for long periods of time. There are numerous physical signs of meth use in gay men to watch out for:

  • Severe weight loss
  • Facial acne or sores
  • Rotting, discolored teeth
  • Tooth loss
  • Dilated pupils
  • Hyperactivity
  • Droopy facial skin
  • Convulsions
  • Liver damage
  • Reduced immunity
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Increased libido
  • Intense scratching
  • Jumpy, twitching eyes
  • Fidgeting, scratching, or picking at skin
  • Chronic nasal problems, including nosebleeds
  • Bad breath
  • Dry, cracked lips and fingertips
  • Dark circles under the eyes from fatigue
  • Skin sores or abscesses, consistent with needle usage

Behavioral signs of meth use in gay men

The effects of meth use in gay men are not limited to physical symptoms. It can also affect a person’s behavior and quality of life, as well. Even without physical signs, certain behaviors among gay men who use meth could indicate a problem.

  • Increased libido
  • Hyperactivity
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Memory loss
  • Reduced inhibition and increased impulsiveness, which may lead to risky sexual behavior and an increased risk of sexually transmitted disease
  • Cravings
  • Difficulties at work, including absenteeism
  • Relationship problems
  • Financial difficulties and inability to meet financial obligations
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Increased agitation, nervousness, distraction, or paranoia
  • Aggressive or violent behavior
  • Repetitive behavior patterns, commonly known as “tweaking”
  • Loss of interest in normal activities, including food, water, and sleep

An abundant, inexpensive supply into the United States has led to the increased use of meth in gay men across the country. Individuals at all socioeconomic levels may use meth while concealing obvious signs.

What are the signs of meth overdose?

Methamphetamine overdose can lead to a potentially fatal stroke or heart attack, often accompanied by overheating in the body. Common symptoms of a meth overdose include:

  • Chest pain
  • Arrhythmias
  • Hypertension or hypotension
  • Difficult or labored breathing
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations
  • Psychosis (disconnection from reality)
  • Seizures
  • Rapid or slow heartbeat
  • High fever and extreme sweating

Gay men may use meth for years before experiencing fatal effects. Long-term meth use among gay men can lead to organ failure, though this is not usually considered overdose-related death.

Treatment for meth use and addiction in gay men

Meth addiction in gay men is devastating, but there is hope for recovery. Gay Men’s Institute provides personalized, evidence-based methods for men struggling with methamphetamine dependency.

Contact us today and take the first step on the path to recovery.

Gay Men's Institute
Call Intake: 760-767-8068