Results from the 2014–2015 Flux study of legal and illicit drug use among gay and bisexual men in Australia suggest recreational drug use is common but dependency is low.
The Flux Study is published by the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales and explores the reasons gay and bisexual men commence, change and stop their drug use behaviour, and whether they experience any direct health consequences. So far, 2251 men have been surveyed for the baseline questionnaire (summary findings below) with follow-up questionnaires of over 1700 planned for the next two years. A final report will be released in 2017.
Summary of Initial Findings
▪ Two thirds (67.0%) have ever smoked tobacco, with 39.6% having done so in the previous six months, about half of whom did so every day.
▪ Most (93.3%) drink alcohol with 17.5% drinking at least four days a week.
▪ Very few men (1.4%) reported having used steroids for bodybuilding or sports enhancement in the previous six months.
▪ One third (33.3%) had ever used erectile dysfunction medications, such as Viagra or Cialis, with 29.1% having done so within the previous six months. Only a minority of this was by prescription.
▪ Over three quarters (81.6%) have ever used illicit drugs, with half (50.5%) having done so in the previous six months.
▪ The most commonly, and frequently, used drugs were marijuana and amyl nitrite, but over a quarter (28.8%) had used any party drugs (including amphetamine-type stimulants and cocaine) in the previous six months.
▪ Over a quarter (26.9%) had ever used methamphetamine (crystal), including one in eight (12.0%) having done so recently.
▪ One in seven of those who reported use of methamphetamine in the previous six months, used it every week (1.8% of sample).
▪ Nearly one in ten (9.2%) men had ever injected illicit drugs in their lifetime, and 4.1% had injected illicit drugs in the previous six months, most commonly methamphetamine.
▪ Men who injected drugs obtained their injecting equipment in a variety of ways,
including through needle and syringe programs (40.9%)
▪ Of the men who had injected illicit drugs in the previous six months, less than one in ten (8.6%) had shared a needle (and syringe) after someone else had already used it (0.8% of the sample). All but one of the men who had shared injecting equipment indicated they had sterilised the equipment before use.
▪ Men who used illicit drugs reported a variety of negative and positive consequences. The majority nonetheless reported having good experiences when using drugs.
▪ Most men who used illicit drugs did so for pleasure and enjoyment.
▪ One in eight of those who had ever used illicit drugs reported having ever overdosed while doing so (10.1% of the sample).
▪ About one in seven (15.4%) men who had used illicit drugs in the previous six months expressed any level of concern about their current drug use (7.8%) of the sample).
▪ The men in the sample tended to express fairly negative opinions about illicit drug use within the gay community, although they often also tended to be less concerned or negative toward their own illicit drug use.
▪ Although the majority of men in Flux reported having some friends who used illicit drugs, most did not appear to be heavily enmeshed in drug-using networks.
▪ While about one in ten recent users of illicit drugs had discussed their drug use with their doctors, very few men used dedicated drug and alcohol services.
Flux is a collaboration between the Kirby Institute, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), the Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society (ARCSHS), the Centre for Social Research in Health (CSRH), ACON, and Victorian AIDS Council/Gay Men’s Health Centre.
View the full Flux Study annual report here.