Sigma Research

Illicit drug use among men who have sex with men in England and Wales

Addiction Research & Theory, 2010, 18(1): 14-22 (doi:10.1080/16066350902770433).

Authors: Ford Hickson, Chris Bonell, Peter Weatherburn, David Reid


This article aims to examine patterns of and concerns about drug use among a convenience sample of MSM in 2005, and compare the prevalence of illicit drug use among 1999 and 2005 samples of MSM in England and Wales. It draws on data from cross-sectional surveys of MSM in gay community venues and services across England and Wales, 2480 in 1999 and 3913 in 2005. We report that in 2005, cocaine, cannabis and alkyl nitrites were the drugs most commonly used in the previous year by MSM inside and outside London. Drug use was significantly more common among men who were younger and resided in London, and among those who reported greater numbers of male sexual partners and were HIV-positive. Frequency of use was generally high among those who used a drug, and poly-drug use was also high. A substantial minority of men who used illicit drugs were worried about use. More men in 2005 than in 1999 reported using various drugs including cocaine, ecstasy and ketamine. We conclude that use of drugs is widespread among the MSM surveyed. Exclusive use of any one drug is rare. There is an urgent need for drug prevention and treatment interventions, which are accessible and acceptable to MSM.


MSM, HIV, AIDS, drugs, sex.

Available online