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Comparing heterosexual & GLBT drug use

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How does drug use differ between those who identify as heterosexual versus those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT)? 

In 2012, NDARC researchers included questions in our annual survey of regular ecstasy users asking participants about their sexual orientation as well as their patterns of drug use, sexual practices, mental health issues, level of risk taking and body image. The data from the 607 survey participants allows us to make some observations about both the similarities and the differences between heterosexual and GLBT regular ecstasy users. 

As researcher Rachel Sutherland explains, heterosexual & GLBT participants both:

  • Nominated ecstasy as their drug of choice
  • Had high levels of alcohol and tobacco use
  • Were sexually active - they had similar rates of casual sex whilst under the influence of drugs, unprotected sex & STI testing
  • Had similar rates of bingeing on substances, overdosing, drug driving and criminal activity


However, GLBT participants were significantly more likely to:
  • Have recently used amyl nitrate, ice, heroin and base (and less likely to have used cannabis, cocaine, speed and illicit pharmaceuticals)
  • Use drugs to come down from ecstasy
  • Have ever injected a drug
  • Have higher levels of psychological distress
  • Report mental health problems - depression, anxiety, paranoia & PTSD
  • Have attended a mental health professional
  • Report body image concerns


To see the statistics in detail, take a look at Rachel Sutherland's presentation, A comparison of heterosexual & GLBT participants: same same but different?

It is important to remember this data was drawn from a sample of regular ecstasy users - that is, it is not representative of the general population. A survey of other populations may return different trends. 

If you're interested in recent GLBT drug and alcohol research, take a look at this report on the prevalence of mental health, alcohol and other drug problems among GLBT populations, and the effectiveness of treatments for these groups. 

Or you can read why these academics think the drug and alcohol field should support gay marriage.