ParTy Drug Named 'Crystal', Part I
Sex is a beautiful act. There is an exchange of energy, emotion, and vulnerability every time we share this experience. The rise of social dating apps has sped up this exchange quite a bit. In our ‘hook-up’ culture apps like Tindr, Grindr and Jack’d make sex available at an instant. But I know from my own dating experiences that finding people interested in developing a connection over the long term is few and far between.
Crystal meth in gay hookup culture
Lately, phrases like, "Want to ParTy?" or "Chem-Sex wanted" have popped up on profiles. They are referring to the drug, crystal meth. This drug is so common on hook-up apps, clubs, and private parties. Let's be real: anonymous sex is apart of the urban and rural gay landscape and so is crystal meth. Both also happen to be major risk behaviors for contracting HIV. So let’s talk about it and how we can reduce the harm when both are combined together.
First off, my intention is not to judge. Every drug has a use and a consequence. In fact, crystal meth was used first by the military to keep soldiers awake during battle. As adults, we should be informed so that we can make choices with our lives and be free from addiction.
Why do people use crystal meth prior to sex?
Crystal meth and chem-sex (or drug-induced sexual encounters) are apart of the gay hook up culture right now. It’s relatively cheap and immediately sends the user into a rush of euphoria that makes having anonymous sex that much better. If it didn’t feel good, people wouldn’t do it.
This drug reduces chances of practicing safer sex
One indulges by inhaling these blue-white ‘crystals’ from heated glass pipes. As they exhale, their eyes roll back in their heads and they become enraptured in a wave of feeling. At this point, that feeling of pleasure makes the sex more heightened and one may be more likely to opt-out of reducing their risk of contracting STDs or HIV by using condoms, oral PrEP, or other forms of harm reduction.
At some point, the ‘party feeling’ inside your brain will subside, but crystal meth’s effect on the body can last for a long time (more on this in Part II). Let’s take some time here and break down how crystal meth works in the body.
Crystal meth affects the body by acting on the central nervous system (a fancy word for the BRAIN!). When you smoke meth, a chemical called dopamine floods the brain. This dopamine chemical tells your BRAIN this is PLEASURABLE, FUN and ENERGETIC. Once the drug has run its course though, that craving for euphoria doesn’t just go away. You want to engage in it again and again. Over time, you build up tolerance and need more of the drug to get the same effect. For some folx, this leads to addiction.
A combination of behaviors that increases HIV risk
The combination of two risk behaviors for contracting HIV (anonymous sexual encounters and use of crystal meth) sets up the environment for an increased risk. And if you are living with HIV and use crystal meth, you may also experience problems keeping your viral load at undetectable levels. In Part II, we'll look at the effects that crystal meth has on the body.
Have you ever experienced discrimination due to your HIV status?