Susan Kingston, a meth expert from the King County Department of Public Health in Seattle, Wash., brought a fresh approach to how the gay and general communities should begin to treat crystal meth addiction and, more importantly, the individuals using the drug during her presentation, 'Crystal Meth Uncensored: What the DEA and Gay Media Won't Tell You.'
Kingston's presentation was part of a day-long event presented by the Chicago AIDS Foundation and the Center on Halsted entitled 'Preventing HIV: Ethics, Activism and Promising New Strategies,' which took place June 27—National HIV Testing Day—at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted.
Kingston began by discussing the myths that she believes the media has perpetuated, including that crystal meth is the most addictive drug; meth users fail treatments and that the addiction is impossible to treat; and that it is the worst drug to hit the gay community.
As far as treatment results, Kingston believes it is the treatment programs failing the drug user, not the other way around, and that the worst drug to hit the gay and straight communities is alcohol.
She also pointed out that poppers are far more abused in the gay community than meth and are just as frequently associated with unprotected sex: 'Ten percent of guys have used meth in the past year. It's two to four times that much for poppers, but we seem to be kind of okay with that. Is that really okay?'
Yet, according to Kingston, the media never reports the good news, which is that most gay men don't use crystal meth and that, in actuality, there is not a meth crisis in the gay community.
Kingston added that the message that needs to be out there is one of wellness within the gay community. 'Before we answer the question what are we supposed to do about this meth thing, we really have to think about who do we think gay men are?,' she said. 'If you think gay men are pools of deficits, then crystal makes complete sense. On the other hand, if you think that gay men need to keep a squeaky-clean image, then anybody who picks up a meth pipe starts to be the deviant who's making the rest of us look bad, and we need to shove him back into his hole. That's what's happening.
'I would be so excited if I heard a prevention program where I heard a gay newspaper say most gay men don't use drugs [ and ] most gay men don't have HIV; they take care of themselves sexually; they're not reckless; they're not irresponsible; they go to work; they shop for groceries; [ and ] they value love just like anybody else.'