Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Substance Abuse [II, 46]

There are three main reasons why rates of substance abuse are higher in the gay and lesbian community than in the general population. The first is historical: as a stigmatized group homosexuals have found themselves cast among other marginal types, including criminals, prostitutes, and junkies. The second reflects the general tendency of groups that have been discriminated against to seek self-medication through such means. The third element is the prominent role (until very recent years) of the gay bar, where drinking--and sometimes hard drugs as well--foster loosening of inhibitions and making contact for sex.

For a long time, alcohol was the drug of choice among gay people. In addition to obtaining it in bars and social gatherings, some drink it in solitary seclusion. Today alcohol remains a problem, and there are gay chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous. The twelve-step model of that group has generally been adopted as a way of combating these problems. However, others reject the disease model of alcoholism, advocating programs to achieve resocialization in the interest of moderate use.

As with many dissident groups, beginning in the sixties the use of marijuana (pot) has been common. It was widely available in the gay bathhouses. Almost entirely restricted to gays was an inhalant, amyl nitrate (poppers). Falsely implicated in the spread of AIDS/HIV, it has largely disappeared.

Today, the greatest scourge of gay men is crystal meth—though this drug has also found favor among heterosexual rural groups in the Midwest and elsewhere. Colloquially, this drug is known among gays as Tina.

Over time best solution to these problems will be found a growing sense of self-confidence and self-worth among gay and lesbian people—gay pride, in short.

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