Sigma Research

Problematic alcohol and drug use among gay and bisexual men

Duration: June 2007 - February 2009

This study examined problematic alcohol and drug use among gay men and bisexual men and service and policy responses to the needs that this use generates.

The 2007 Gay Men’s Sex Survey (GMSS) examined the proportion of men that used alcohol and a variety of other drugs and the proportion that were concerned about their use. While use of, and concern about, alcohol use was very common far fewer men used other drugs, but a greater percentage of those who did so were concerned about their use. We therefore see a coplex pattern of need. Significant proportions of men both use alcohol and are concerned about their use of alcohol. A much smaller proportion use other drugs, but a much larger proportion of these are concerned about their drug use.

At present, there are few alcohol services aimed at gay men and the extent to which generic services are acceptable to this group is unknown. Moreover, while Heroin use is relatively uncommon among gay men, opiate services are the bedrock of most drugs services. Finally, drugs strategies tend to concentrate on the ill-effects of drug use on communities through the crime generated by drug dealing. Gay men are probably peripheral to this crime.

This report begins with a review of drug and alcohol strategies and policies based on document reviews. It then outlines the key data from GMSS 2007 that examines the extent of drug and alcohol use among a national sample of gay and bisexual men, and the proportions that report problems with alcohol and specific drugs. It then reports 40 in-depth, face-to-face interviews with gay and bisexual men who have identified their alcohol and drug use as problematic. Among this qualitative sample we examined history of use; social contexts of use; perceptions of problems, difficulties and risks; strategies to eliminate or minimise harm; intervention and service needs; and experiences of interventions and service use.

A full research report called Wasted opportunities: problematic alcohol and drug use among gay men and bisexual men, was published in February 2009 and is available here.

Key contact: Peter Weatherburn