Gay men and substance abuse: an issue of importance to the LGBT Community
Gay men have higher rates of substance abuse than straight men. This leads to a higher incidence of involvement in the criminal justice system. There are other consequences such as higher risk for HIV infection and other health complications, homelessness, and loss of employment, and these problems themselves can be further aggravated by being arrested, incarcerated, or otherwise involved in the criminal justice system.
Possession of any usable amount of methamphetamine in Texas is a felony. That means potentially it can be punished by time in the state jail or the penitentiary. Some surveys have showed that use of meth by gay men is five to ten times more likely than meth use by a straight man. Gay men are being arrested for possession of meth, cocaine, and other party drugs at higher rates proportionate to their representation in the population overall than straight men.
This is a problem we have to deal with as an entire LGBT community. Often use of meth and other drugs are a sign of great unease, anxiety, and stress associated with being gay or bisexual. Closeted behavior and hiding sexual relationships with other men can predispose men to relieving the stress of hiding by partaking in substances offered to them during these encounters. The stress of hiding your identity from family, friends, or wives and children can lead to a need for release that drugs offer.
Craig Sloan, a counselor and social worker in New York who works with gay and bisexual men, has done a great deal of work on substance abuse issues and gay men. He has put forth the argument that the only way to combat the high numbers of addiction and substance abuse in the LGBT community is to actively affirm and support gay and bisexual men in their identities and counsel them on accepting their identities and completely normalizing it. Anything less will leave them with the stress they are seeking release from by using.
As a criminal defense attorney, I work with the LGBT community and LGBT people accused of possessing drugs. I work with my clients to get to the bottom of why drug abuse is an issue for them. We work on coming out issues, dealing with anxiety and self acceptance. We work on getting them support from professionals and getting out in the LGBT community and connected with out, proud, and sober LGBT people who can model affirming, healthy behavior. I refer them to substance abuse treatment and support groups who affirm their sexual identity.
As part of my representation, my job is to explain to the prosecutors why as a community we deal with high rates of substance abuse. I help them see why this is an issue that has to be dealt with by rehab, treatment, and gay affirming counseling instead of incarceration. I have had success with getting cases of small quantity possessions dismissed by proposing a long term treatment program.
I have seen gay men through the course of my professional relationship with them go from entirely closeted and engaging in drug abuse and random, high risk sexual encounters to out, proud, involved gay men working in the LGBT communities and engaging in long term healthy intimate partnerships without the drugs. It is a wonderful, fulfilling experience.
If this sounds like you, give me a call. Lets work together to see how we can get you on the path to health and happiness.