Addiction treatment programs said to be most effective! A report by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association has called into question the common belief that crystal meth addiction is untreatable. Titled “Breaking the Grip: Treating Crystal Methamphetamine Addiction among Gay and Bisexual Men,” the report virtually debunks the widely held perception by health care professionals that crystal meth addicts are a lost cause. Released on Nov. 30 in conjunction with National Crystal Methamphetamine Awareness Day, the report provides guidance for health care providers, emphasizing the importance of tailor-made addiction treatment programs that assess the needs of gay and bisexual men, a demographic 10 times more likely to use crystal meth than the general population, according to the study.
The report’s findings were extracted from strategically recruited focus groups in five American cities thought to have widespread crystal meth use among gay men. The makeup of the groups consisted of health care providers experienced in treating gay men for crystal meth addiction, clinical researchers and health policy experts. While the intractability of crystal meth addiction is noted throughout the study, it also suggests that dependence on crystal meth is not insurmountable, given the optimal environment. Unfortunately, barriers to achieving abstinence from crystal meth are numerous, beginning with the misconceptions of both clinicians and the general populace. “Many people believe gay men use crystal methamphetamine for sex, when in fact individuals vary greatly in the antecedents and frequency of use, the situations surrounding use and motivations for using,” the study found. Such social externalities as homophobia, fear, stigma and public discourse maligning the “lifestyles” of gay men are all factors found to contribute to what the study calls “psychosocial pressures” potentially leading to meth use.
Focus groups also found that gay men are often drawn to the escapism of the drug, using crystal meth as a coping mechanism for depression and anxiety about becoming physically unattractive due to aging. They highlighted the allure of crystal meth for HIV-positive gay men as allowing them to embark on “drug holidays to escape feelings about having a chronic illness.” A consensus among the focus groups was that the need for culturally competent health care professionals, aware of the nuances and conditions unique to crystal meth use among gay and bisexual men, are vital in providing effective addiction treatment. The focus groups discussed “anecdotal reports of staff in some addiction treatment programs refusing to permit clients to discuss their sexual practices,” and criticized that “not only is this culturally incompetent care to gay men, but it also prevents sex, one of the most common and powerful triggers for relapse, from ever being addressed and dealt with therapeutically.” The main conclusion is the crystal meth addiction can be easily overcome drug addiction issues and its cause.