Sigma Research

Typology of drug use in United Kingdom men who have sex with men and associations with socio-sexual characteristics

International Journal of Drug Policy, 2018; 55:159–164 (doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.01.007).

Authors: G.J. Melendez-Torres, Adam Bourne, David Reid, Ford Hickson, Chris Bonell, Peter Weatherburn


Background: Analysis of specific drug use patterns in men who have sex with men (MSM) is important in targeting HIV prevention and harm reduction interventions and in developing a fuller picture of drug use in context beyond consideration of use of specific drugs in isolation.

Objectives: We sought to develop a typology of recent drug use in MSM, and to explore how distribution of MSM across the classes in this typology differs by socio-sexual characteristics.

Methods: We examined last-year drug use reported by 16,814 MSM as part of a cross-sectional, internet-based survey of MSM living in the UK for which data were collected in late summer 2014. We tested models with between two and six classes for types of specific drug use, and related socio-sexual covariates to the classes in the best model using multinomial regression.

Results: Our five-class model described a range of drug use patterns, including minimal users, low-threshold users, old-skool users, chemsex-plus users and diverse users. MSM identifying as gay were more likely to not be minimal users. HIV-positive MSM were more likely to be chemsex-plus users than HIV-negative MSM. Number and type of non-steady partners, ethnicity and education were each related to class membership, though trends were complex.

Conclusions: Findings from associations between correlates and latent classes suggest avenues for service development beyond current attention to opiates or chemsex drugs. Our findings draw attention to heterogeneity in drug use patterns in MSM beyond what current discourse on chemsex drugs would suggest.

Keywords: Men who have sex with men; Chemsex; Sexual behaviour; HIV; Risk factors; Latent variable modelling

For a full copy of the paper please email Ford Hickson

Available online