If you use crystal meth, here are some tools that can help you take care of your sexual health:
PrEP: When used consistently and correctly, PrEP is up to 99% effective at preventing the transmission of HIV. Because PrEP is a medication you take orally, regardless of whether you do or don’t also use condoms, you still receive the protective benefit. This can be extra helpful if you’re using crystal and having sex for long stretches, or with multiple partners, or without knowing your partner’s HIV and STI status. For more information on PrEP, including how to access it, visit: www.GetPrEPed.ca
Condoms: When used consistently and correctly, condoms are also very effective at preventing the transmission of HIV, and only condoms can reduce the risk of other STIs. HIM distributes condoms at Vancouver’s gay bars and bathhouses, and you can also come to our five health centres in Metro Vancouver for both regular and specialty condoms (like latex free, insertive, and extra-large ones). For a list of current locations partnering with us to provide free condoms, visit HERE.
Testing: PrEP or condoms are not a substitute for regular sexual health testing. HIM recommends that all sexually active gay, bi, and other guys who have sex with guys get tested every three months. If you have any symptoms, or have had higher-risk sex, or get an alert that you might have been exposed to an STI or HIV, get tested ASAP. You can book an appointment at one of our health centres HERE. Please call 604-488-1001 if you need a referral right away.
Sexual Health Risks
Crystal meth can make guys horny, very horny. Combined with the lowered inhibitions you might feel on meth, you might end up having the kind of sex you wouldn’t normally have: perhaps rougher, with more partners / unknown partners, more intense, or condom-less. All of these kinds of sex can lead to an increase in risk of STI and HIV transmission. Hep C is also associated with some of the kinds of sex guys have while high on crystal, because these kinds of sex can lead to tears or injuries, increasing the likelihood of blood-to-blood transmission.
HIV, Hep C & Slamming
If you slam crystal and share rigs, you are also at risk for picking up or passing on HIV or Hep C, regardless of whether you are also having sex (or not).
Other Health Risks Associated With Crystal
Our friends at 56 Dean Street in London have put together this excellent list of things to watch out for if you use crystal, even occasionally:
- Due to increasing the body temperature, heart beat and blood pressure, it (crystal) can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, coma or death.
- Comedowns can leave a person exhausted, aggressive and paranoid, in some cases even suicidal.
- People can develop stomach problems such as acid reflux or gastritis due to not eating for a long period of time.
- With long-term use, crystal meth can damage the lungs, nose and mouth and lead to lasting mental health problems, even after quitting the drug. It can also interact dangerously with other recreational and prescription drugs.
- People may find quitting crystal very difficult and its effects on the brain can last long after giving the drug up
- Crystal is addictive. One reason is that withdrawal symptoms can be intense and include insomnia, irritable moods and depression. It can also have a negative impact on your immune system and metabolism. Some guys experience short-term psychosis for a few days after they’ve stopped using. Sometimes guys who use get a sensation of insects crawling on their skin, and can scratch their skin so hard that they end up wounding themselves.
FENTANYL: VANCOUVER IS CURRENTLY EXPERIENCING A SIGNIFICANT OUTBREAK OF FENTANYL OVERDOSES, INCLUDING IN INDIVIDUALS TAKING STIMULANTS LIKE CRYSTAL OR COKE. IF YOU’RE CURRENTLY USING CRYSTAL IN ANY FORM, TRY TO AVOID DOING SO ALONE, AND IF POSSIBLE, TRY TO DO IT IN THE COMPANY OF SOMEONE WITH A NALOXONE KIT WHO IS TRAINED TO USE IT.
Our colleague David Stuart at 56 Dean Street in London made an incredible series of short web videos for gay and bi guys who use or previously used crystal. We love these movies for their sex-positive, honest, and incredibly useful information- they cover everything from negotiating HIV and STI prevention as a crystal user, to tools for taking a break, to exploring the reasons why you (or other gay and bi guys) feel like you need to combine sex and crystal to begin with. Click on this link HERE to access the ten videos for free!
Some gay and bi guys find that twelve-step programs like Crystal Meth Anonymous are helpful in taking a break from crystal or getting sober permanently. Other guys struggle with twelve-step programs because they find the focus on spiritual development too close to churches and other faith-based organizations. HIM neither encourages or discourages exploring twelve-step programs as possible resources if you use crystal. If you would like to learn more about Crystal Meth Anonymous here in Vancouver, including meeting times and locations, please click HERE.