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The Dangers of Alcohol & Drug Abuse in Gay Nightlife Culture

Despite the LGBTQ+ community‘s relentless efforts towards spreading awareness on sexual and gender diversity and pushing for equality, oppression, and discrimination against them as a sexual minority still exist. Based on studies, these struggles remain to be the biggest contributing factors to the alarmingly high rates of alcohol abuse and drug addiction among individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. 

Alcohol, Drug Use, and Nightlife

The earliest gay and lesbian bars were essential building blocks of LGBTQ+ history. The passionate queer culture we know today was conceived during “happy hours” at nightclubs. It became the norm to drink excessively and experiment with substances to forget and drown out the societal pressures and the pervasive prejudice queer folks have to endure in the daytime. 

“Gay people are more prolific and adventurous drug takers,” said Professor Fiona Measham, from the University of Liverpool and who has spent two decades interviewing people in gay nightclubs around London and Manchester. “There is a work hard, play hard attitude, a willingness to experiment with different drugs and an openness about that.

Drinking alcohol at a nightclub

Due to the pervasive presence of drugs and alcohol in queer social spaces, the States of Mind Report found the following data:

  • The use of alcohol, tobacco and substances is 2 to 4 times higher among LGBT people than heterosexual people. 
  • Almost half or 48% of participants reported high levels of harmful drinking
  • Lesbians are twice more likely to binge drink than straight women.

In the same study, they also listed the most commonly used illicit drugs ever or in the last 12 months in the LGBTQ community. These include the following:

Researchers found that gay men used significantly higher levels of “crystal meth,” ketamine, GHB, amyl nitrate, and opioids compared to lesbians in their lifetime. Cannabis use was approximately the same between gay and lesbian respondents. 

A Preference for Club Drugs

Research conducted by Novel Psychoactive Treatment UK Network (NEPTUNE) echoes similar studies that looked into the prevalent addiction in queer communities: LGBTQ+ people have also been ‘early adopters’ of some new drug trends, such as club drugs and novel psychoactive substances (NPS). 

The prevalence of club drugs makes sense given that queers are standard fixtures of parties, concerts, bars, and nightclubs where these illicit drugs are rampantly used. Based on the National Institute on Drug Abuse, club drugs include:

Also known by the street names of G, Geeb, Gina, goop, Georgina Homeboy, or liquid ecstasy, GHB is a depressant approved for the treatment of narcolepsy. It gives a sense of euphoria, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, memory loss, and unconsciousness.

    • Rohypnol® (Flunitrazepam)
      Rohypnol is a sedative similar to Xanax and Valium. It’s not approved for any medical use in the U.S. This club drug has an infamous reputation of being sneakily mixed into drinks of unsuspecting victims of sexual assaults. It’s also called circles, date rape drug, forget-me pill, La Rocha, Mexican valium, mind eraser, pingus, R2, rib, rope, and roofies.
    • MDMA (Ecstasy)

Popularly known as ecstasy, it’s a type of synthetic drug that instantly alters the mood and perception. It produces the same kind of pleasure or high from hallucinogens and stimulants.

    • Ketamine 

Code names for ketamine include Lady K, Vitamin K, cat valium, and special K. This club drug distorts your vision and hearing and detaches you from reality. In the late 1990s, ketamine became a part of the queer drug use and nightlife scene. Dubbed the “CK1” after the Calvin Klein perfume, it was mixed with cocaine and snorted to mellow down from the high of ecstasy.

Also known as chalk, crank, crystal, fire, glass, go fast, ice, speed, and “Tina,” this club drug can come in powder or pill form. Crystal meth looks like shiny white and bluish glass fragments. 

  • LSD (Acid)
    D-Lysergic Acid Diethylamide or LSD belongs to the diverse group of hallucinogens that alters the things you see, hear, and feel. They give hallucinations that seem too real for the drug user even if they are not.

Users of Club Drugs Are Prone to Polydrug Use

The Neptune study suggests that users of club drugs, whether from the LGBTQ population or not, tend to abuse more than one substance simultaneously (using more than one drug at the same time) or concurrently (using more than one drug within an extended period). 

The mention of combining ketamine and ecstasy in the Vice article on drug use and nightclubs is an excellent example of this theory. Chemsex, which is a cocktail of mephedrone and GHB frequently used in gay-organized orgies, is another. At least 20% of respondents of the National LGB Alcohol and Drug Use survey, which was cited in Neptune, also reported concomitant of use of two or more substances, including alcohol.

Other dangerous drug combinations are cannabis with alcohol, ecstasy with alcohol, heroin with sedatives, and amphetamines with painkillers.

People clubbing

The Effects of Combining Drugs Can Be Lethal

Polydrug use, or the abuse of multiple drugs, intensifies the potency of the “high” sought after by people struggling with addiction. Unfortunately, combining substances also magnify their dangerous side effects. It can create a combined drug intoxication, which can potentially lead to:

Drug use and a nightlife filled with alcohol can also lead to fatal emergency room visits. In 2011, more than half of alcohol-related emergency room visits in the U.S. involved illicit and prescription drugs. It can also pave the way for a life-threatening drug overdose

LGBTQ+ Drug Addiction Treatment

At Freedom From Addiction, we believe it’s possible to be queer and sober. There’s more to pride than alcohol, drug use and nightlife. We can help you or your loved one start your journey towards healing and recovery. 

We have LGBTQ-friendly drug addiction treatment programs that recognize and effectively address the root causes of addiction specific to members of the queer community. We are a safe and accepting space free from the stigma of addiction or gender diversity. 

For more information, please reach out to Freedom From Addiction now!

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