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Gay Men and Inhalant Use

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Inhalants go by lots of names depending on what they contain. Inhalants that contain alkyl nitrites may be referred to as poppers, Jungle Juice, Rush and Amyl Night. Inhalants can also be common household items like air fresheners, nail polish remover, and cleaning products.

Some inhalants are legal because of how they are packaged and labeled. A few are available medically. Most are completely illegal. They may seem like safer drugs because they aren’t street drugs, but in reality, they can be dangerous or even fatal.

Who Uses Inhalants?

Drug abuse and addiction aren’t limited to any one demographic. People of all ages, genders, sexualities, and backgrounds use drugs like inhalants.

However some groups are more at risk than others because of personal, social or cultural factors. The LGBTQ+ community is one of these groups.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration recently reported that “Sexual minorities were more likely… than sexual majority adults to have substance use disorders in the past year, including disorders related to their use of alcohol, illicit drugs, marijuana, or misuse of pain relievers. Sexual minority adults were more likely than their sexual majority counterparts to need substance use treatment.”1 Use of illegal and dangerous substances like inhalants is a serious health concern among gay men and other LGBTQ+ individuals.

Why Gay Men May Abuse Inhalants

Being gay isn’t easy. As The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains, “People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBTQ+) often face social stigma, discrimination, and other challenges not encountered by people who identify as heterosexual. They also face a greater risk of harassment and violence. As a result of these and other stressors, sexual minorities are at increased risk for various behavioral health issues.”2 These issues include inhalant and other drug use.

Gay men deal with discrimination and harassment from family, co-workers or strangers. Cultural pressure to conform to gender norms can lead to difficulty accepting a gay or bisexual identity. Poppers and other inhalants can seem like an easy way to escape uncomfortable feelings or the pressures of a minority identity. They may seem like they will provide relief from anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression that can result from dealing with stigma on a daily basis.

Developing an Inhalant Addiction

Inhalants don’t actually solve any problems. In fact, they start creating new ones. Regular use leads to addiction. Gay men may feel like they can’t enjoy sex, have fun or even be themselves without the use of drugs. This psychological dependence can result in escalating use of poppers and other drugs. Individuals may use inhalants along with other addictive substances like alcohol, marijuana, and opiates.

Withdrawal symptoms add to the difficulty of quitting, and individuals may keep using inhalants long after they want to stop.

How Inhalants Harm Your Health

Inhalant use harms physical and mental health. Inhalants dilate blood vessels which may make it easier to contract HIV and other communicable diseases. Some inhalants can lead to sudden sniffing death syndrome due to cardiac arrest. Drug use lowers inhibitions and clouds judgment. This can lead to unsafe sexual practices. It can result in accidents and injuries.

Poor judgment can also lead to additional drug use and overdose. Combining inhalants with other drugs increases the chance of a dangerous reaction or overdose. For example, using inhalants and Viagra increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Abusing other drugs may cause potentially fatal changes in heart function or breath rate.

Learn More about LGBTQ-Friendly Addiction Treatment

If you are worried about your or a loved one’s use of inhalants or other substances, reach out to Michael’s House at 760.548.4032. We offer compassionate, culturally competent treatment. Our admissions coordinators are available day and night to answer your questions about addiction and help you find the gay-friendly treatment options that best fit your unique recovery needs.

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1 Medley, Grace, et al. “Sexual Orientation and Estimates of Adult Substance Use and Mental Health.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Oct. 2016.

2 Substance Use and SUDs in LGBT Populations.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Sep. 2017.