Party Drug Use in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community

Studies conducted since the 1970s have suggested a higher prevalence of alcohol and drug use in lesbian, gay, bi and transgender (LGBT) communities compared to the general population. Of all the communities affected by the increased use of "party" drugs like cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy, X), ketamine(special K), amyl nitrate (poppers), and methamphetamines (crystal meth), gay men are perhaps most notably affected.

In addition to their dangerous physiological effects, these drugs cause disinhibition, incaution, and, some say, heightened sexual arousal. Health providers believe they hinder safe sex practices, that they have catalyzed recently increased rates of gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis A, and HIV in metropolitan LGBT communities, and that they are a serious LGBT health concern. Many providers find the correlation between party drug use and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in urban gay male populations in their locality.

Party drugs, sometimes called dance drugs, are so called because they cause feelings of empathy and euphoria and are associated with the nightclub scene, raves, and circuit dance parties, which travel between cities like Miami, Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. LGBT communities routinely organize circuit parties, often as AIDS fundraisers. Ketamine, ecstasy, and amyl nitrate are often brought into the venue by patrons. Many claim that the loss of inhibition and the feelings of disassociation caused by drugs like ketamine heighten their experience and allow them to dance vigorously longer. Consequently, dehydration and heat exhaustion are common.

Teen deaths associated with drug use and nightclub events (raves) have amplified the general public's awareness to party drugs and their dangerous effects. Most medical emergencies that occur at raves are caused by heat stroke and exhaustion due to overexertion and disregard for well-being, both of which may result from drug use.

These drugs may be particularly dangerous when combined with antidepressants, HIV medications, or Viagra (which is used to counteract the temporary erectile dysfunction [ED, impotence]) caused by some drugs, or when injected using contaminated needles. Combining these drugs with alcohol increases the risk for injury and death.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 05 Dec 2001

Last Modified: 05 Mar 2015