Black and Latino gay or bisexual men in New York City are more likely to use methamphetamines than whites, according to a new, 14-month study by New York University and New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

“The levels of use among gay and bisexual men of color indicates a shift in methamphetamine use, especially within New York City’s gay community, from a stereotypically ‘white’ drug to one that is crossing racial lines,” said Dr. Perry Halkitis, the study’s lead author and director of NYU’s Center for Health, Identity, Behavior & Prevention Studies (CHIBPS).

“Because use was associated with black and Latino race/ethnicity in our analysis, we contend that methamphetamine is emerging as an area of concern in ethnic minority populations in New York City,” he added. “Specifically, growing use of methamphetamine among gay and bisexual black men is alarming because of the high rates of HIV in this segment of the population.”

Previous studies have shown that nearly 70 percent of gay or bisexual men use methamphetamine as a means of enhancing their sexual pleasure, and an equivalent proportion agree that the use of club drugs such as methamphetamine increases the frequency of intentional unprotected sexual intercourse, known as “barebacking.” Consequently, the researchers note, the combination of methamphetamine use and unprotected sex threatens to hasten the spread of HIV.

The study’s authors, who noted that club drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), MDMA (Ecstasy), and ketamine, have grown in popularity among gay and bisexual men in the last decade, explored methamphetamine use among gay and bisexual men who also attended gyms in New York City.

In this study, which included 311 participants, the researchers found that nearly 25 percent indicated using methamphetamine in the previous six months, with black (28.1 percent) and Latino (30.4 percent) men reporting higher rates of use than white men (15.2 percent). In addition, men who are HIV positive were more likely to use the drug than were those who are not (32.4 percent vs. 20.9 percent).

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