by Nenad Nikolic, Belgrade

by Nenad Nikolic, Belgrade

LGBT’s use of drugs: Minority stress point of view

07 Dec, 2018

by Nenad Nikolic, Belgrade

Being gay myself, I think it is worth mention that I started my relationship in a warehouse rave party, while my testosterone was oozing with MDMA. He was a friend of mine for years, and even with evident likes for each other, we held back. That night drug broke all boundaries between us, and there we were feeling nothing but love for each other. I was afraid when the drugs ware off, that love will too, but it didn't.

Belonging to a gay subculture and also identifying and belonging to a rave subculture which is having its golden moments in Belgrade, it seems like everyone is taking drugs. Thinking about it all, I started talking with my friends about our collective experience. I went straight to the point and asked my friends: why do you take drugs, what do drugs mean to you?

“FUN.” - Micky was short on that. And yes, it can be fun.

“I see it as a social lubricant, the way alcohol is. I also think it is a substance that you should use when you are feeling good, to make you feel even better. It can’t make you happy and satisfied with your life if you aren’t already. You will always have in some corner of your mind the thought of the thing that worries you, the problem that bothers you is still there.

“ John has a good point: When having a problem, popping a pill won’t make it go away.
“It gives me that artificial feeling that I can’t achieve in real life. That immense happiness, that grand joy, and carelessness. I like when my senses are heightened so I can enjoy more in the music, the lights, the people…” (It seems like Michael is having most fun)

I like to tell myself that the main reason I go to a rave is the music. But I can’t deny the drugs are also the reason. At times I go to raves straight, just to show myself that I can go all night without any drugs. And I can. I love getting lost in the rhythm it feels transcending. It’s just my legs don’t hurt when I’m on ecstasy.

Back to the warehouse rave party. Nina Kraviz was playing some nasty tunes. The crowd was very excited. Everybody seems like they are on something to say at least. By my independent judgment (and my friend later also noted that) 40% of men were gay. Located in the center of the crowd, without any prejudice and need to hide, felt like we are in a gay club, dancing, sweating, hugging, laughing having the time of our lives. So, is anything wrong with this picture?

According to the UKDPC report (official government drug policy commission) the rates of substance use are higher among LGBT than in the general population. One-third (33.0%) of the gay and bisexual men had used drugs in the last year, which was approximately three times higher than the proportion of heterosexual men who had done so (11.1%).

When I asked John to comment on this information, he went all crazy on me saying statistics is the wrong method to make any conclusion. It is a lie that is telling the truth.
“I don’t think the difference is that high. Maybe the fact that we are sort of like an outcast. We are on the margins of society, and maybe that’s why we are drawn by the thing that are also on margin.” Micky said.

Michael was also not thrilled with the info, but made a significant remark when I asked him why do you think these rates are so high among gay men? “Gay men spend most of their young adult life in hiding of their true self, they are under tremendous pressure in every segment of their life. And I think that’s why they more often take drugs so they can make it easy on themselves, to escape reality for a moment. “

What Michael here is talking about its called minority stress. According to this model being LGBTQ is not the cause of substance abuse; "minority stress" is. Psychologists define minority stress as stress that occurs when a person experiences hardship because of a socially stigmatized identity. In this case LGBT identity. It takes extra effort to overpass this type of stress. It occurs on a daily basis, from family dinner to meet with colleagues, you have to deal with continually revising whether you are accepted or not. Being in this hyper vigilante state all the time, you pay attention to every detail, every small comment, repeating it in your head, stressing about it, overthinking... The fact that our minority status is often hidden makes it even more stressful to maintain that image of something you are not. You can get bullied in school, fired from jobs due to discrimination, and condemn to hell by religious groups just because of who you are and who you love.

So, no wonder that you from time to time escape to rave, where people are accepting of you, where you are treated as equal. The level of empathy is over the roof. In this sort of modern tribal dance, you perform with and feel accepted by thousands. And yes, you use drugs.