Paul Dillon is currently on leave. This column first appeared in the Star in February 2003.
If anecdotal information is anything to go by, the use of crystal appears to be increasing among certain populations of gay men in Sydney. The number of people who have approached me and asked for information on the drug or where they can find help for friends is quite phenomenal. Usually people are concerned that they are finding themselves using more and more, with the crashes becoming more extreme all the time.
Crystal or meth can come as a fine white powder, similar to speed, or as clear, almost liquid-like, rice grains. More and more we are seeing the translucent crystal variety on the gay scene. It can be taken by swallowing, snorting, smoking, anally (booty bumping as it is known in the US) or by injecting. Studies in the US have shown that most gay men snort the drug, although it would appear that more gay Sydneysiders are smoking it by way of a pipe.
The biggest risk is from the increased chance of HIV infection through unprotected and uninhibited sex while under the influence of meth. The liberating nature of the drug means that often safe sex is discarded while sexual activity increases greatly. It has been reported in the States that in almost half of the new AIDS cases, crystal meth has been a factor. Crystal has the potential to make the user feel invincible and as a result some people take risks they would not normally consider, believing they are unable to catch anything -“ including HIV. This is all in the mind and unfortunately has proven to be one of the major risks when using crystal.
Some men use crystal to have sex for many hours at a time. Others are unable to get a hard-on when they use the drug and this is where Viagra has proved to be invaluable. Some men gets sores or blisters on their penis due to extended masturbating, while others get anal tears due to long periods of sexual activity. When using crystal and having anal sex it is incredibly important to keep the condom well-lubed to ensure it does not break.
Research has strongly indicated that crystal methamphetamine abusers exhibit symptoms that can include violent behaviour, anxiety, confusion, and insomnia. More importantly they also can display a number of psychotic features, including paranoia, auditory hallucinations, mood disturbances, and delusions. In extreme cases, this paranoia can result in suicidal thoughts.
We still do not know why some people will experience severe problems with some drugs and others won’t, although there are many theories. Whatever the reasons, some people will find it very difficult to stop using the drug. When they do they will experience severe depression, anxiety, fatigue, paranoia, aggression, and an intense craving for the drug.
If you are considering experimenting with this drug, be as informed as you can be. Make sure you realise that there are very real risks with using it -“ particularly relating to unsafe sexual behaviour, psychological problems and dependence.
Remember: if you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and, no matter how many times you have used a substance, never be blas?/p>