In this first of a three-part series, Jimmy Palmieri, founder of the Tweakers Project, discusses why gay men begin using meth.
Tina, ice, crystal, glass, P-N-P, blowing clouds, Get to the Point, T — are all common codes that can be found on any gay hook up site, suggesting, in “tweaker” language, a night of using meth and most likely having sex. The sex is almost always unprotected because most don’t have thoughts about tomorrow when they are using tonight.
“I thought it was cocaine.” “It was just a little bump.” “He was so hot, and he said sex would be so much better.” “I wanted to fit in.” Those are some of the many reasons members of our community give as to why they tried meth in the first place.
Meth has grabbed the gay male community in a disproportionately and epidemic stranglehold, causing HIV, Hep C, and other STD’S and STI’S to run rampant. Slamming, which is slang for injecting meth into the vein, not only spreads disease but causes major scarring, infections and skin erosion. Smoking, or blowing clouds, can cause lung impairment, secondary burns and mouth infections.
Meth has the distinct ability to make a person feel so “amazing” because of the overpowering release of the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine that it is said to have no equal. It also tends to make users so libidinous that one or two sexual partners many times cannot fill the urge, and users are always chasing the almost unattainable orgasm they are searching for. The ironic part of this is that many cannot achieve an erection or ejaculate while using. So it, of course, becomes a vicious cycle.
Very few users can claim occasional use. Many people like to claim this, but in approximately 85 percent of meth users, it becomes chronic, and the mess gets messy fast. The weekend warrior using only on a Friday or Saturday can quickly find himself extending his weekend through Monday, into Tuesday and Wednesday, ultimately requiring the drug more often and in larger amounts, to reach the magnitude of the first high, which is not possible.
In West Hollywood and many other gay enclaves, the rehab centers are filled mostly with meth users, with many secondary addictions to alcohol or heroine or opiates. This poly-addiction occurs because users try to find a way to relax, using a sedative-type drug, to counteract the manic high from using meth.
The consequences of meth use are far and wide. Many crimes of opportunity are caused by the need for money to purchase more meth. Jobs are lost, families are separated or destroyed because of the shrapnel from a user’s life. The partners of meth users usually endure an unfathomable hell on earth, because what they will witness a partner do on meth is almost unthinkable.
With all of this being said, there is hope for recovery. We will look at recovery and getting sober in part two of this three part series.
Jimmy Palmieri is the founder of The Tweakers Project. He currently serves as a human services commissioner for the City of West Hollywood and sits on the community advisory board for the West Hollywood Project, funded by Los Angeles County.