T is for TINA: A Recap

Use of crystal meth (AKA “Tina” or “T”) can be challenging for some gay/bi/queer (GBQ)  guys. Because of its highly addictive nature and intense high, meth use that starts out as fun at a party or during sex can become destructive if the use increases over time and begins to affect other parts of your life. Research shows that GBQ guys report higher levels of meth use compared to our straight counterparts. To raise awareness about meth’s potential negative effects and to provide information on how to support someone who is struggling with their meth use, OurSpace hosted a workshop on crystal meth facilitated by Vincent Francoeur, Gay Men’s Group Programming Coordinator at the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT). While OurSpace acknowledges that some guys are able to moderate and manage their meth use, we have also seen other guys struggle with the consequences of severe crystal meth dependence. Resources are included at the end to support those who are negatively affected by meth use.

The Intense High of Crystal Meth

When you use crystal meth, your brain releases dopamine  (the “feel good” brain chemical) at fifteen times the normal amount usually present in your brain. That’s almost five times as much dopamine as you get from having sex (without drugs), and three times more dopamine than cocaine induces. That’s a lot of pleasure all at once.

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Meth use also speeds up your central nervous system. In this heightened state of pleasure and alertness,  you feel much more confident, euphoric, and uninhibited This perceived sense of invulnerability can be quite appealing – especially if you’re dealing with insecurities, mental health challenges, or other stressors in your life.

Meth and Sex

Meth use can have a powerful impact on your dating and sex life. Because you feel more confident when you’re high on meth, you’re better able to put yourself out there and move on from rejection if you encounter it. Sex feels better because your sex drive and sexual pleasure are increased by meth use; you have more energy to have sex for longer periods and with multiple partners. Feeling no inhibitions, you’re also more willing to try new and riskier sexual scenarios without getting bogged down by anxieties, like insecurities about your body or fears of getting HIV or other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The Meth Crash and Other Potential Negative Consequences

While the high from meth can be exciting and enjoyable, the crash can be difficult – especially if you’ve been using for days. Since meth causes the brain to release extremely high levels of dopamine, you may end up feeling really low once the high is over and dopamine levels begin to decrease to lower, more typical levels. If you’re frequently using meth during sex, sex without meth can seem less satisfying or impossible, and you may be be more likely to engage in sexual behaviours that have a high risk of HIV/STI transmission because of the sense of uninhibitedness that you might feel when high on meth. The dopamine rush associated with being high on meth can predispose you to seek out more novel experiences, people, places, and behaviours (that can be exciting but also potentially dangerous) so that you continue to feel pleasure while high. It’s also really hard to fall asleep after using a lot of meth, so you may find yourself up partying for several days in a row and then crashing for another few days and this can negatively affect your job or relationships. You can also experience paranoia,  delusions, hallucinations, and even psychosis if you use meth for a long time without sleeping.

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Meth Use Among GBQ Men

Some guys are able to moderate their use and not have it negatively affect their lives. Other guys may use meth to cope with social anxiety, depression, or other mental health challenges, or to escape from negative emotions, like guilt or shame. Many guys use meth during sex because it makes the experience more intense and reduces insecurities and fears around things like body image, HIV risk, and so on. Communities and connections can then form around using meth and having sex, and these can be attractive for guys who struggle with isolation or loneliness.

However, the positive aspects of meth use can sometimes be fleeting. Although you may experience intense connections with others when high on meth, the intensity of those connections may  wear off once the high is over, causing you to feel lonely (again). In turn, you may want to use meth more so that you can experience those connections with others again. Because meth use can be accompanied by other pleasurable behaviours – such as cruising and having sex – you may feel the need to consistently use meth when engaging in these behaviours, making  it hard for you to stop using, even when you want to. Sometimes the rituals associated with using – getting ready, contacting your dealer, texting your party friends – can become addictive as well, consuming more and more of your time. You can also experience vivid flashbacks of your high experiences, even months after using.

Stopping/Reducing Use

If you’re experiencing negative effects from using meth and want to make a change, recognize that you’re not alone. Many guys have struggled with meth use and have found a path towards recovery. It is important to remember that recovery is a journey, so there may be setbacks along the way. Recovery from meth dependence can be challenging, but it is possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with this process – check out our list of resources at the end of this article. Here are some other tips:

  • Talk to a trusted friend and/or medical professional about your concerns with meth use.
  • Consider why you may have started using meth and begin to address those underlying issues – you may need to focus just on stopping or reducing your use at first, but eventually you’ll need to deal with those things that you’ve been avoiding by using meth.
  • Try to find other ways to connect with friends, such as going for coffee or seeing a movie.
  • If you’ve been using meth a lot while having sex, try abstaining from sex for a while to give your brain a chance to weaken the connection between meth and sex. Then think about the last time you had “sober sex” and enjoyed it; what made that time so great?
  • Make visual changes in your environment to help you with the change process: rearrange the furniture in your home, change your duvet cover, or change your computer wallpaper and passwords.
  • If you’re looking to stop using meth completely and you have a lot of party contacts, you may want to consider deleting your dating apps and/or changing your phone number.

Most of all, accept that making changes may feel awkward and difficult at first. Take time to mourn the loss of the good times that you experienced while using meth. Remind yourself of why you’ve decided to change your use and what you can gain from making that decision.

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Supporting a Friend/Loved One

If you’re worried about a friend or loved one’s meth use, listen to them and offer support, not judgement. Trying to guilt or shame them to stop using will not work. Try speaking to your friend or loved one when they’re sober as they might be more focused on experiencing pleasure when they’re high, making it difficult for them to hear your concerns and empathize with you. If you’re talking to them while they’re high, it’s better to text (auditory memory is decreased and visual memory is increased while high on meth, so they’re more likely to remember what they read than what they hear). Set healthy boundaries for yourself – you can’t help someone unless you’re taking care of yourself first. Saying things like “I am still your friend. When you’re ready, I am here to help” can be good for them to hear.

We hope you found this blog useful. Please check out the resources below for additional information and/or support.

Resources

AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT)Individual and Group Therapy

CAMH – Rainbow Services (LGBTTTIQ)

Pieces to Pathways (limited to 16-29 year olds)

Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
Other 12 step meetings such as AA, NA, or CA may also be useful

SMART Recovery at the 519Main SMART Recovery website

Hi, my name is Tina – newly redesigned informational website

Lust, Men, and Meth: A Gay Man’s Guide to Sex and Recovery – book written by a gay psychotherapist

“Be-longing for it” – YouTube video series about GBQ men’s personal experiences with meth, sex, and intimacy

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