We’ve all heard the horror stories about drugs.; if you so much as look at a joint you’ll overdose and die.
Memories of amateur theatre companies consisting of freshly graduated drama students, offering Tony worthy performances, depicting someone taking a tab of LSD and throwing themselves from a roof because they believe they can fly. Swiftly followed by a freeze frame and an emphatic “DON’T DO DRUGS!”.
The fact that most of the actors are likely to go home and smoke a joint is irrelevant.
Luckily, we’ve progressed past the point of such unnecessary fear mongering. The fact is, not all drugs are going to kill you and you won’t necessarily end up like a character from Trainspotting, just for taking a toke on a zoot.
(seriously, we did just say zoot – cringe, right?)
This isn’t to say there aren’t risks. Drug addictions and bad trips can occur and overdosing is far too common. There are few communities who know this quite as well as ours; you’ll be hard pressed to find a gay club that doesn’t have a dancer or two on some sort of pill.
The sad reality is that many of us turn to drugs to soothe the pain that a lot of us experience. Family rejection doesn’t sting quite so bad when you’re high. This creates an atmosphere where many young LGBTQ+ people feel pressured to take drugs to fit into the scene, and unfortunately the habit dies hard in the community, leading to drug use extending into the later stages of our lives.
There’s nothing wrong with taking drugs, and if you think you are addicted then there is no shame in that.
However, there are risks to drugs, they can be unpredictable, and if you’re not safe with the way you take them it can cause a series of problems, both physical and mental. This is why it’s important that we give our community the information needed to take drugs responsibly.
In this article we’ll go through the most common drugs, what they do and their risks, and we’ll offer support and guidance to help with you safe drug use, and where to get support when you need it.
While it would take us a novel to list every substance that people have used to get high, there are certain drugs that you’re more likely to come across or are particularly important to be careful with.
Here’s a brief list that will help outline some of the drugs you will come across in the queer scene, an idea of what you can expect if you take them, and the effects if you take them for prolonged use.
Commonly referred to as Marijuana, Weed, or Ganja; it is one of the most common drugs that can be smoked with a pipe or in a joint, or ingested when mixed into foods known as edibles. It causes a sense of lethargy, often making you feel sleepy and relaxed though it can cause you to feel paranoid and hallucinate when having a bad trip. It can affect your mental health by causing memory loss, a lack of motivation, feelings of paranoia, and increase the likeliness of developing issues like Schizophrenia.
A club drug that many in our communities may encounter when first immersing ourselves in the night life that our community is famous for. Otherwise known as E’s, pills, and mandy, it can be taken as a pill known as ecstasy or a powder called MDMA. It is a Class A substance and comes with significant risks of dehydration and overheating. The dehydration can often cause us to drink too much water to compensate, causing further damage internally. It has been known to cause memory loss, depression, and anxiety following prolonged use.
This is one of the more common drugs on the queer scene due to the energetic, confident high it gives you, making it popular in club settings. It is a Class A drug due to its highly addictive nature, regular use changes the way your brain releases dopamine, making you feel that you need to take cocaine to feel happy. It’s mostly found in a powder form to snort though it can be smoked or injected. Prolonged use can cause depression, panic attacks and anxiety. It’s often referred to with the street names Charlie, Coke, Ching, Percy, and White.
If you’ve seen Breaking Bad, you might know a bit about these crystals. Also known as Crystal Meth, Crystal, Glass, Ice and Crank, this drug is popular for giving an exhilarated, aroused high, though it can also make you hyper alert and paranoid. It is a Class A drug meaning possession, selling, or distributing is completely illegal. It can have severe effects on your mental health such as severe psychosis and brain damage.
Because it is highly arousing it is often found within sex parties, and chemsex environments, putting users at greater risks of catching STI’s including aids through unprotected sex. Rape and unconsented sex is often also reported in these environments although little is done by the police force when such cases are reported. It’s therefore important we’re able to maintain our own physical protection in these environments, by creating a healthier relationship with drug use so that we remain conscious and alert.
Also known as LSD, Blotter, Cheer, Dots, Drops and many other names, this chemical is usually sold in tiny amounts on blotter paper, as a liquid or in tiny pellets. This psychedelic can make you hallucinate with effects lasting several hours. It is a Class A drug and can cause severe mental health issues, and can be especially damaging if you have a history of mental health issues.
Because LGBTQ+ people experience higher rates of mental health conditions versus the national average, we recommend avoiding regular or high dose usage of acid to prevent further impact to underlying mental health conditions.
These are closely related drugs with similar effects, when consumed GBL turns into GHB. It can make you feel euphoric and sexy, and reduces your inhibitions making sex more pleasurable. It’s unclear what long term effects GHB and GBL have on our mental health, however it can often be used as a spiking drug which can be extremely traumatic. It is a Class C drug and can also be found under the names Geebs, liquid ecstasy, and 1.
GHB and GBL should never be consumed with alcohol or any other drug. During the 2010’s the drug became very popular amongst gay men and deaths were happening frequently across the UK. The drug can slow the system to the point the user ‘goes under’ and their body begins to shut down, it was not uncommon for people’s breathing to stop completely and resulting in their death.
To help you understand how high the risk of overdose is, just 1 millilitre too much can be the difference between experiencing the euphoric effects of the drug, and your body going into coma or even death. Combine that with alcohol or other depressant substance and your chances of death are significantly higher.
It’s compound chemicals were originally used as an industrial strength alloy cleaner and paint stripper – so it’s not something designed to be consumed by the human body.
*Some substances are covered by the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act, which means it’s illegal to give away or sell. Supply and production can get you up to 7 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both l Source: TalktoFrank.com l a government funded initiative operated by the Department of Health and Social Care to educate the public on drug use
Also known as Balloons, or Nos, this substance falls under the Psychoactive Substance Act. This means that while it is illegal to sell or give away, it is not illegal to possess. It can make you feel giggly or relaxed and has often been touted as a ‘legal high.’ Mental health issues are limited though prolonged use can lead to Vitamin B12 deficiencies causing walking to become painful, this can severely impact your quality of life.
During 2022 professional health bodies have seen a significant rise in hospital admissions from young party goes for causing neurological complications, such as spinal cord and nerve damage. The NHS says ‘It can affect both the spinal cord and the nerves in arms and legs resulting in loss of feeling, abnormal sensations, loss of motor function and therefore variable degrees of limb weakness right down to paralysis’.
More commonly known by the names Meow-Meow, Meph, M-Cat, and Drone, this Class B is often compared to Cocaine and Ecstasy. It can make you feel hyper-alert and energetic with potential mental side-effects like Insomnia and loss of short-term memory.
Used in the NHS to aid managed withdrawal of heroin addiction, methadone is a synthetic opiate. It calms the nervous system, reducing anxiety, and physical or psychological pains. Overdosing can result in coma or death from a failed respiratory system.
This powerful stimulant can be found in many of our clubs and is usually sold as an off-white or pinkish powder. It can make you feel alert and energised for hours at a time. It puts a great strain on your heart and has been known to cause heart attacks. Taking Speed can often lead to mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, paranoia, and psychotic episodes. It is a Class B substance.
An anaesthetic used for humans and animals, Special K, as it’s sometimes known has become very popular in clubs. It can also be referred to as K, Green, Donkey Dust, Super K, and Ket, and is a Class B substance. It is possible to become addicted to Ketamine with prolonged use. This can lead to memory loss and issues with concentration as well as depressions after particularly lengthy abuse. Interestingly, research is being conducted into the possibility of using Ketamine to treat depression, though this is still in its infancy.
Although many joke that ketamine is used to tranquilise horses, it’s purpose as an anaesthetic for large animals is due to it’s high anaesthetic properties.
A very serious and dangerous drug, heroin is highly addictive and is the largest killer of all club drugs in the UK. An opiate, it can be easy to take too much and fall into a coma, and has a high risk of death due to respiratory failure. It’s highly addictive properties also means user’s relationships, careers and financial stability are often destroyed and users become indebted to drug dealers.
If someone offers you heroin at a party, we strongly urge you not to take it and to remove yourself from the situation. Should you take heroin and find you’re experience symptoms of cravings or addiction, contact Talk to Frank on 0300 1236600 immediately and they’ll guide you to support available.
It should also be noted that not all club drugs are illegal.
Alcohol is perhaps the most popular club drug with the potential to be highly addictive and damaging to our bodies and mental health.
Responsible drug use always includes responsible drinking.
This is when we have sex while under the influence of drugs. This is an extremely popular practise amongst the queer community and can be done because we feel that the drugs enhance our pleasure. There are, however, serious risks to this practice. For more information read our in-depth article on Chemsex here.
All drugs can become addictive, though some are more addictive than others. With prolonged use, we can become dependent on the good feelings that the various highs bring and thus an addiction forms. If you think you may have become addicted to a drug(s), we recommend reading our article here on drug addiction.
It’s become abundantly clear that scare tactics are next to useless in preventing drug use. The reasons that a person may take drugs are too varied and nuanced to successfully eradicate without a complete societal restructuring which, though attractive, is unlikely to happen any time soon.
While any type of drug use introduces risk, there are ways to make it safer. With this in mind, it’s important that we promote harm reduction practices for drug taking, to lower the chances of harsh side effects like overdoses and infections.
Not all drug use is consensual.
It’s an unfortunate truth that spiking is a frighteningly common occurrence, especially in clubs where a lot of these drugs are taken. It is becoming increasingly difficult to prevent spiking as the tactics become more complex and harder to defend against.
If you feel like you may have been spiked, it’s important to speak to authorities as soon as possible. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to the police then these resources can still be useful:
Organisations are there to help find you the right support mechanisms, and help you make the first steps toward discussing such problems openly and in confidence.
Unfortunately, in our society where there is so much shame and stigma attached to the idea of being addicted to something, this can be extremely difficult. Throughout our media, education, and public perception, addiction is treated as an awful affliction that is too disgusting to talk about. This messaging, much like the messages our community faces everyday about ourselves, can be very easy to internalise and lead to deepening feelings of shame and an unwillingness to talk.
It can be very difficult to break this conditioning but what’s important is to remember that your loved ones love you for a reason, they want to see you thrive. Therefore, while it may be scary to open up to others about addiction, it is important because our loved ones can be the crutch that help us on the road to recovery, and out of the darkness.
If you have come to the realisation that you may need support in recovering from addiction, one of the best resources you can access is the NHS.
Below is just some of the routes available to you:
If you think you might have been spiked and raped, or raped while under the influence of drugs, the first people you contact should be the police.
Many LGBTQ+ people don’t feel comfortable approaching the police, or think they won’t be taken seriously, but the authorities cannot try to find and charge the
perpetrator if it is not reported.
The police will also ensure you get the right support from the NHS, including all sexual health tests.
Should not be comfortable going to the police, we strongly urge you to visit your local sexual health clinic as soon as you can. Staff at these clinics are well trained on LGBTQ+ culture, and sexual health, and trained on supporting people who may have been raped.
Below is some of the major sexual health clinics across the UK.
In Manchester, the MRI clinic offers integrated sexual and reproductive health services across the city of Manchester and the boroughs of Stockport, Tameside and Trafford. The service also provides easily accessible clinical advice and support to a range of health professionals including GPs, practice nurses, pharmacists, and other contraception, sexual health and HIV teams across Greater Manchester.
The Hathersage Centre, the main hub of the service, co-ordinates postgraduate training for health professionals from across the Northwest.
In London, 56 Dean Street is an excellent sexual health clinic with a slew of resources dedicated to helping members of the LGBTQ+ community remain sexually healthy.
In Glasgow, Men who have sex with Men can find expert and understanding sexual health advice at the Sandyford Sexual Health Service.
In Edinburgh, the Gay Men’s Clinic is open at Lothian Sexual Health.
In Cardiff, the City Clinic has a specialist sexual health service for men who have sex with men to provide full sexual screenings and advice
In Northern Ireland, The Rainbow Project works hard to provide inclusive sexual health resources.
These include clinics at the Belfast LGBT Centre and the Belfast Trans Centre as well as in Foyle LGBT in Londonderry/Derry.
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