Intravenous (IV) Drug use in the LGBT+ community

Drug use is much more prevalent in the LGBT+ community, some use it for Chemsex*, others want to stop feeling bad or start feeling good. No matter the reason it is a pandemic that plagues the community. A 2018 national survey on drug use and health (NSDUH) that 20-30 percent of the LGBT+ community use illicit drugs, this is over twice as the 9 percent among straight counterparts. Even worse any men who have sex with men are 9.5 times more likely to use heroin and 12.2 times more likely to abuse amphetamines than their straight counterparts. (NSDUH, 2018)

Not only does being a member of the LGBT+ community raise the likelihood of illicit drug use, in Kansas 64.4% of the population use Marijuana, 21.8% use cocaine, 13.4% use Methamphetamine, and 3.0% use Heroin. Meth and Heroin are the two most community used intravenous (IV) illicit drugs in Kansas. Use of these and other illicit opioids have led to 45% of all drug overdose deaths, an increasing trend from prior years. Overdosing is not the only concern among IV drug users. In 2017 17.3% of new HIV cases in males were contracted via Intravenous drug use (IDU). This prevalence is almost twice as high as the United states 9.7% of new HIV cases in males being contracted by IDU (NIH, 2018).

Yet, drug use is still on the rise in the LGBT community and beyond and has become a national pandemic. Few places are fighting back with safe injection sites and programs to help recovering users. These safe sites: while not federally legal, these sites allow users to inject with a medical team ready and sterile needles provided. Sites for safe injection have started to appear in the US, notably in Colorado, California, and New York, among others. These sites have increased entry into substance use disorder treatment, reduces that frequency of drug use, increase public safety when using, reduces HIV and hep C, successfully manage on-site overdoses and drug related deaths, saving costs due to disease, overdose deaths, and EMS services, and increases the delivery of medical and social services (Drug Policy Alliance, 2020). The barriers to these sites are mostly legal as none of the drugs normally injected in these facilities are legal and community worry.

Treatment available

For those without access to a safe injection site and the care provided by one still have other treatment options. In Kansas, Addiction Center has locations in Overland Park, Topeka, and Wichita. The Addiction center has sections for Teens, college, and family life. More information can be found on their website. To combat the Opioid epidemic ACADIA healthcare has a comprehensive treatment center in Wichita. Though, ACADIA only treats those over the age of 18 and have inpatient or outpatient options. Even easy to call hotline phone numbers such as SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or United recovery project (888) 815-2561. There is always help, no matter where the induvial is in the recovery process.

Withdrawal Symptoms

It is important to seek medical help when looking to quit any illicit drug. Depending on both the drug used and the consistence of use withdraw can range from mild to deadly. Is IV drug use being the most prevalent in both Kansas and the LGBT community those will be the focus for withdraw. Within the First 24 hours of quitting people will begin to experience initial withdrawal symptoms, this generally include fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, and an increased appetite. After the first 24 hours these symptoms will get worse and are generally at the worst about 5-6 days in, depending on the induvial and the consistency of drug use. During the first week individuals withdrawing will crave sugar and become even more irritable; some experience psychosis which can consist of hallucinations, both visual and auditory. In many cases of bad withdraws individuals end up in the intensive care unit under constant monitorization, for their own safety. Even after the initial withdraw there are many negative mental health impacts that come with use and withdraw that include depression, generalized anxiety, and hopelessness. The affects of withdraw not only affect the user but family and friends as well.

If the withdrawal symptoms do not subside after a week or two, the chance of post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) increases. PAWS can last from six months to two years and symptoms include irritability, aggression, depression, mood swings, low energy, fatigue, or insomnia, though fog, limited ability to focus, lack of interest in sex, and chronic pain. PAWS and its symptoms are more likely to be triggered by a specific drug. Methamphetamine can trigger a lack of impulse control that can last for years; Opiates can trigger insomnia, anxiety, depression, and decreased impulse control; and cocaine can trigger depression and lack of impulse control (verywellmind, 2021).   

*Chemsex is the use of illicit drugs to increase the feeling of sexual pleasure. The use of illicit drugs lowers inhibition; limit the ability to remember what happened; Increases risk of infection, with both through sex and sharing needles; and depending on the drug used for Chemsex, there are other negative health outcomes. The practice of Chemsex is practiced in the LGBT+ community but is less common than just using illicit drugs. The act of Chemsex is only reported in 18% of LGBT+ individuals during their lifetime.  


Frankis, J., Flowers, P., McDaid, L., & Bourne, A. (2018). Low levels Of CHEMSEX among men who have sex with men, but high levels of risk among men who engage In Chemsex: Analysis of a CROSS-SECTIONAL online survey across four countries. Sexual Health, 15(2), 144. doi:10.1071/sh17159

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