New study: Drugs and the Gay community

Gay men and lesbians are three times more likely to use illegal drugs than straight people, a British Home Office-funded study says.

The UK Drug Policy Commission report reviewed studies on illegal drug use in ethnic minority groups, disabled people and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transexual (LGBT)community.It found that people who identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual were three times more likely to have taken drugs in their lifetime than heterosexual people.

The review estimated that 75 per cent of LGB people had taken illegal drugs at least once, while between 30 and 50 per cent had taken them in the last year.Findings from the British Crime Survey estimate that ten per cent of heterosexuals took drugs last year, compared with 33 per cent of gay or bisexual people. 

It is important to note that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are not a homogeneous group but the published evidence often fails to distinguish between sub-groups or has a very narrow focus as one particualr group. In particular, it should be noted that most of the evidence available in this review relates to gay men only. It was a common finding for all the reviews conducted as part of this project that the evidence was extremely limited and often of poor quality. Therefore the findings, although the best available, should be interpreted with caution.

Gay men at risk

Most of the research relates to gay men and the most popular drugs for this group were cannabis and poppers.Gay men were found to be most likely to use poppers, while cannabis was the most popular drug for lesbians.Gay men were also found to be at risk from abusing drugs such as steroids and Viagra and a 2000 study of gay men in London gyms found one in seven had used steroids in the last 12 months.A number of studies have suggested that Viagra use in particular is linked with sexual risks.Other drugs commonly taken were cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine, amphetamine and methamphetamine (crystal meth).There was little evidence available on drug abuse in bisexual and trans people.

New study: Drugs and the Gay community

Not adequately addressed 

The review also found that the LGBT community were most likely to be "early adopters" of new drugs and may experience problems and side effects before the rest of the population.Health services often focused on heroin and crack cocaine, the report said, meaning that problems with drugs in the LGBT community – which tends not to use these drugs – were often not adequately addressed.It recommended that a 'kite mark' system be developed to mark out mainstream health services which demonstrate good practice in dealing with drug problems in the LGBT community and also suggested different approaches to raising awareness, such as internet sites, new social media campaigns and events at community venues.

Stonewall is a British charity dedicated to achieve equality and justice for lesbians, gay men and bisexual people. Ruth Hunt, Stonewall's head of policy, said to Pink News:

– We welcome the work of the Home Office and are pleased that the government is looking at how lesbian and gay people can be encouraged to seek help about drug abuse.The study confirms what Stonewall has known for some time – that LGB people use drugs more than heterosexual people but don't feel able to seek advice from the health service.The NHS needs to target lesbian and gay people to encourage them to seek advice.

Read the full report: DRUGS & DIVERSITY; the Impact of Drugs on Different Minority Groups.