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ID: 744

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Research

Topics: Innovative Harm Reduction Programmes; LGBT Communities and Harm Reduction

Presenting author: Toby Lea

Presenting author biography:

Dr Toby Lea is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health at UNSW Australia. His research is primarily focused on recreational drug use and blood-borne virus prevention among gay and bisexual men.

Attitudes towards illicit drug use among gay and bisexual men in Australia: challenging the normalisation thesis?

Toby Lea, Mo Hammoud, Fengyi Jin, Jeffrey Grierson, Nicky Bath, Lisa Maher, Louisa Degenhardt, Garrett Prestage

Introduction: Gay and bisexual men (GBM) report high rates of drug use, are often early adopters of new drug trends, and have distinctive drug use and sexual practices. Using the normalisation thesis, this paper will examine the acceptability and cultural accommodation of illicit drug use among GBM according to their patterns of drug use and engagement with gay culture.

Methods: Data were sourced from the Flux study, the first online cohort study of illicit drug use among GBM in Australia. Baseline data from 2,251 participants were analysed using principal components analysis and multivariate linear and logistic regressions.

Results: The mean age of participants was 32 years, 82% had ever used illicit drugs, and 51% had used drugs in the previous six months. In multivariate analysis, more accepting attitudes towards drug use were associated with recent drug use (p<0.001) and a stronger connection to gay community (p<0.001). While most men who had recently used ‘party drugs’ (such as methamphetamine, ecstasy and GHB) had accepting attitudes towards the use of these drugs (74%), only a minority of men who did not use party drugs reported accepting attitudes (22%). Irrespective of their own drug use, participants were more accepting of some drugs (cannabis, ecstasy) and generally unaccepting of others (crystal meth, heroin).

Conclusions: While drug use was common among men in this study, the findings suggest heterogeneous attitudes towards drug use among GBM. Regardless of their own drug use, many men reported disapproving attitudes towards recreational drug use. These findings challenge commonly held assumptions that drug use is an unremarkable feature of gay sociality, and raise questions about how the normalisation thesis is understood in reference to GBM.