Current Affairs

Gay men and lesbians ‘more likely to use drugs’ than heterosexuals

Jessica Geen July 26, 2010
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Gay men and lesbians are markedly more likely to use illegal drugs than straight people, a Home Office-funded study says.

The UK Drug Policy Commission, which carried out the study, has called for a review of how drug services treat minority groups.

The report reviewed studies on illegal drug use in ethnic minority groups, disabled people and the 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.

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).

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.

However, the study authors warned that much of the evidence was “extremely limited and often of poor quality” and although the most comprehensive available, “should be interpreted with caution”.

There was little evidence available on drug abuse in bisexual and trans people.

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.

Ruth Hunt, Stonewall’s head of policy, said: “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.”

Ms Hunt added that when LGB people wish to seek advice on drugs, they must first talk about their sexual health. She said this “completely excludes” lesbians.

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