My friend Johnny was just published in the latest issue of Lavender. Full story reprinted here:
By Johnny Hess, LADC
It is time for the GLBT community to recognize a nemesis, one that has been gaining momentum in our community and wrecking havoc for too long.
Tina is the most common slang name we have given, seemingly lovingly, to the drug methamphetamine. Also known as ice, glass, crystal, crank, meth, and many others, methamphetamine has begun taking a toll that quite seriously can be considered an epidemic.
The truth of the matter is that whether it is an epidemic or not, we need to begin looking at it as such, and taking action against it before it gets any worse. We need to begin calling it what it is: methamphetamine, a neurotoxic substance.
The number of treatment admissions for GLBT people suffering from addiction to methamphetamine has continued to increase dramatically over the past two years.
Along with this alarming new number of people addicted to the drug comes nearly as many who have become addicted to sex, or who exhibit serious problems with sexual compulsivity.
Along with those new admissions comes a frightening rise in HIV transmission ratesâ€”and the age range of GLBT addicts continues to decrease.
That means a whole new wave of young people are being diagnosed with HIV while still in their early 20s.
Reports have indicated that within our community, as many as 50 percent of all new HIV transmissions are related to the use of methamphetamine.
So, what is it about methamphetamine that makes it a drug tailored to attack our community?
Addicts and casual users (a short-lived title) alike will tell you that methamphetamine makes a person feel like Superman.
It is faster acting and longer lasting than just about anything that is available to drug users.
It is a stimulant that has such a profound and powerful effect on brain chemistry that one-time users are at risk of permanently altering their brainâ€™s ability to function normally.
In a nutshell, imagine having the best day of your lifeâ€”whether it be winning the lottery, gaining a job promotion and a huge raise, or falling in love with the person of your dreams.
That feelingâ€”of being high on life without the use of drugs or alcoholâ€”occurs because of the brainâ€™s production and release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of pleasure and well-being.
On your best day, the brain produces a little more dopamine than normal, allowing you to feel wonderful. When methamphetamine is ingested, particularly intravenously, your brain can release up to 600 times that amount of dopamine.
Suddenly, your best day becomes a thrill that you cannot possibly have an imagination for unless you have experienced it.
And who wouldnâ€™t want to experience that? Again and again.
Users in our community who are filled with shame and internalized homophobia suddenly become socialites wanting to meet other guys, and maybe have sex.
Users who are comfortable with their sexuality become porn stars unable to satiate their desire for sexual experiences that run the gamut of their former fantasies.
With that comes a mentality that completely disregards the need for safe sex.
Any user will tell you that under the influence of methamphetamine, he has had at least one unsafe sexual encounter, and regular users will tell you that safe sex is generally out the window.
This is not jargon. These are not generalizations. This is the truth about this drugâ€”and the truth is terrifying.
In terms of damage to the brain, imagine a regular garden hose attached to your house. Imagine turning it on full blast. Imagine that being an example of dopamine naturally released into your brain to cause you a feeling of well-being.
Now, imagine forcing 600 times that amount of water through the hose. The house and the hose are not designed for it. Neither is your body or your brain.
Although the feeling of euphoria results from ingestion, the brain is damaged to the extent that it often takes chronic users years to regain a natural level of dopamine production within their brains.
Unfortunately, some users never regain their full dopamine capacity. They are plagued by depression and a consistent devastating feeling of impending doom.
In an effort to educate mental health professionals and the public alike on the devastating effects of this drug, a Methamphetamine Forum will be presented on September 21.
This forum is a collaborative effort by professionals who work on the front lines of this epidemic, including the Red Door Clinic, HIM Program, Minnesota Aids Project, Pride Institute, The Aliveness Project, Alternatives, Pillsbury United Services, Minneapolis Urban League, Minnesota Department of Health, City of Minneapolis, Abbott Northwestern Hospital, and Man To Man Seminar.
Please come to this event to educate yourself on this situation. This is a call to action. Our borders have been crossed, and we are in jeopardy.
Meth, Sex, and Men: A Community Forum
Sept. 21, 7 PM
Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.