Members of Israel’s LGBTI community are struggling with crystal meth use.
Last year, Gay Star News published its Chemsex series about the rise of drug use in the gay community. It’s clearly a problem for many.
Crystal meth in Israel
Unfortunately, the use of crystal meth among Israel’s LGBTI community has been on the rise for the last couple years. However, over the past couple months, health officials in the country say it’s gotten worse. Crystal meth is now the drug of choice in Israel’s Chemsex scene. Previously, the scene relied more on drugs such as ketamine, methadone, and GHB. Crystal meth is three times more addictive than cocaine, which can cause huge issues.
‘The problem is much bigger than what has been presented so far,’ said Dr. Roy Zucker of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital and the Gan Meir LGBT health clinic.
‘We are seeing a sharp shift from GHB and ketamine to crystal meth, especially among young people.’
According to Zucker, there are many reasons for the rise in crystal meth use.
‘It seems to be related the fact that recently it’s been very difficult to obtain GHB, because the police are investing resources to confiscate the date rape drug.’
While crystal meth is generally smoked, it can also be inhaled or injected. It tends to give a feeling of euphoria lasting at least 15 hours, due to an increase of dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
‘People like this drug very much because it gives self-confidence and is sexually arousing, but it’s a terrible drug,’ Zucker said.
The Health Ministry’s Addiction Treatment Department doesn’t have official figures on the use of crystal meth in the LGBTI community. However, according to department director Dr. Paula Rosca, reports still indicate a rise in use.
‘We are getting reports on the wider use of crystal and it seems that a major phenomenon in London, New York and Berlin is reaching Tel Aviv,’ Rosca told Haaretz.
‘Many young people who start with this are not aware of the hard addictive properties of this drug and think: “If it’s hard to get Gina, we’ll use Tina, what’s the difference?”’ she continues, referring to nicknames for GHB and crystal meth, respectively.
Back in February, the Knesset Committee on Drug Abuse met for a hearing. At this meeting, the LGBTI community was discussed. According to data from the LGBT Medicine Society, part of the Israel Medical Association, illegal drug use among the LGBTI community is more than twice that of the general population.
For LGBTI women, the likelihood of drug use is 40% greater than the general population. Among LGBTI men, use of amphetamines like crystal meth is three and a half times higher than the general population. The use of heroin is ten times more likely.
Rising STI rates
The use of these illicit drugs correlates with rising STI rates among the LGBTI community.
‘We are seeing the use of crystal meth resulting in all forms of symptoms of addiction to the drug, and on this background we are also seeing a rise in sexually transmitted diseases,’ Dr. Gal Wagner, director of the Gan Meir clinic, told Haaretz.
‘It’s one of the strongest sex drugs there is and it affects daily life. We are hearing about it more and more lately. Only a few uses suck people into the cycle of hard addiction.’
‘In recent years we are witness to a significant increase in the use of drugs in the gay community, which has clear ramifications for the infection rate for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases,’ a representative for the AIDS Task Force said.
‘We believe that this is a unique social phenomenon that requires the involvement of the state authorities, including the allocation of resources and damage control, the training of therapists and the conduct of thorough research.’