Crystal meth, a potent, dangerously addictive drug that swept the West Coast and the nation’s heartland, is establishing a foothold in New England, says the Boston Globe. Public health authorities are trying to stop small outbreaks of use from raging into wildfires. Doctors and social workers who specialize in treating gay men report an increase in patients hooked on meth, fueling fears that a drug capable of lowering inhibitions will result in risky sexual behavior and a flood of HIV infections.
A survey of nearly 1,000 gay men conducted by Massachusetts health authorities last year indicated that one in 10 had tried crystal methamphetamine at least once in the preceding year and that 2 percent acknowledged smoking, snorting, or injecting the drug at least once a week. Last month, representatives from local and state governments met in Washington to consider how public health agencies should respond. The growing use of meth in gay communities in New England, specialists said, threatens the advances made in combating the AIDS epidemic. After enduring years of burying friends and viewing HIV as a death sentence, gay men now regard it as more of a chronic, treatable disease, with ads for powerful drug regimens portraying robust men celebrating newfound health. “The intersection of this drug with HIV is obviously a major concern for controlling the epidemic,” said Dr. Stephen Boswell of Fenway Community Health, a major provider of AIDS treatment. ”I’ve had tons of patients telling me they’ve wound up doing things they never would have done if they weren’t on the drug.”