Sex and Meth
- Meth increases the libido and impairs judgment, which can lead to hazardous sexual behavior.
- Several individuals take the drug intravenously, increasing their risk of contracting diseases such as Hepatitis B or C and HIV/AIDS.
One of the most hazardous effects of meth on the body is the increase in sex drive and the lowering of sexual inhibitions among certain individuals, which puts them at risk for sexually transmitted diseases. Even though meth is not necessarily an aphrodisiac, it does trigger the release of powerful brain chemicals, such as dopamine, that might increase sex drive which gives the individual a sense of well-being and desirability, and adrenaline, which provides the individual with a boost in confidence and stamina.
Meanwhile, these chemicals impair the judgment centers of the brain. “You do things when you’re on meth that you would never do sober,” says Peter Staley, a former meth user. “You drop your guard. Condoms? Forget about it.” Unprotected sex is especially hazardous for meth users, many of whom inject the drug and might share needles, which can spread lethal diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. Also, because the drug increases energy and stamina, individuals might have more aggressive sex for longer periods of time, increasing the chances of injury and the danger of spreading infection.
In New York’s gay community, where meth has been rising in popularity since the late 1990s, it has contributed to a raise in infections of HIV/AIDS, which, until recently had been declining. “In New York, we’re seeing approximately 1,000 gay men yearly become infected, and that’s just unacceptable,” says Staley, now an anti-meth activist in the gay community. “It’s extremely sad. It’s tragic, and it’s nearly completely because of crystal meth.”
Increased HIV and hepatitis B and C transmission are likely consequences of increased methamphetamine abuse, particularly in individuals who inject the drug and share injection equipment. Infection with HIV and other infectious diseases is spread among injection drug users primarily through the re-use of contaminated syringes, needles, or other paraphernalia by more than one person.
Research also indicates that methamphetamine and related psychomotor stimulants can increase the libido in users, in contrast to opiates which actually decrease the libido. However, long-term methamphetamine use may be associated with decreased sexual functioning, at least in men. Additionally, methamphetamine seems to be associated with rougher sex, which may lead to bleeding and abrasions. The combination of injection and sexual risks may result in HIV becoming a greater problem among methamphetamine abusers than among opiate and other drug abusers, something that already seems to be occurring in California.
But the meth-related spread of disease is not limited to urban gay communities; anyone engaging in hazardous sexual behavior or the sharing of needles is highly at risk. In Oregon, the prevalence of crystal meth, which is frequently taken intravenously, is believed to be the cause of a recent increase in syphilis cases, and state health officials fear that it might lead to a boom in cases of HIV. “Whether you have a history of drug addiction or not, has not bearing on whether you get addicted to meth,” Staley tells FRONTLINE. “It is Russian roulette, pure and simple. And for an important portion of those who try it, their lives get destroyed.”
Meth’s cruel irony is that while it raises sexual desire and stamina, it ultimately decreases the individual’s sexual desirability and performance. Chronic, heavy consumption of the drug destroys the individual’s good looks and leads to impotence, known in certain gay circles as “crystal dick.” Other individuals report the inability to reach an orgasm at all, in spite of maintaining arousal for long periods of time. And certain individuals, such as journalist Thea Singer’s sister, Candy, lose interest in sex altogether, as meth becomes the sole focus of their lives: “Sex interfered with my drug consumption,” she says.
Meth’s Other Effects on the Body
- Increased heart rate
- Disorganized lifestyle
- Lowered resistance to illness
- Liver damage
- Important increase in body temperature, which can lead to brain damage