Tina sure knows how to party! w00t!
Tina kicks ass! Let's hang with Tina again next weekend!
I love Tina!
Tina scares me a bit.
I love Tina, she's easy to score, and cheap! Tina RULES!! Who needs sleep? Let's go out and party!
Tina scares me.
I'm not sleepy, you go to bed and I'll be up in a while.
Where were you last night? You know I hate sleeping alone.
I cleaned the apartment.
I wasn't sleepy, so I stayed up, got some work done and cleaned up around here.
You haven't slept much in weeks. You sure you're okay?
I think we should talk to someone, get some help.
I don't have a problem with Tina!
I hate Tina!
Tina is a blast!
Tina is a blast!
Tina scares me a lot.
But I DO want to go out dancing again tonight. I promise, I won't be late. See you in the morning.
Tina scares me a lot!
Pookie, wake up! I want to fool around.
What time is it? It's 4 AM! I have to work in a couple hours. Are you nuts?
Sex with Tina is unbelievable! Take a bump. We'll rest this evening.
Are you nuts? I'm going back to sleep. You need help!
Fine, I'll see you later.
Where were you last night? I waited up for you.
I met up with some friends. These cool guys invited me back to their place to hang.
All night? You've got a problem. We've got a problem! We need to get you help.
What problem? You're so damn paranoid.
You've got a problem!
Yeah, I've got a problem alright, and I'm talking to him.
Please! We need to talk! We need to address this now!
-Tina sucks the life out of people. She sucks the life out of relationships. And ultimately she sucks them both dry, killing them both, dead.
-Tina seems like fun... seems harmless enough at first, exciting to be around, titillating even.
-Tina is a favorite with the circuit party boys. She is the life of the party when you're first getting to know her.
-When you're with Tina, she'll keep you up and dancing all night long. So why miss out? Circuit Parties, After Parties and even the Morning Party are all manageable when you're with Tina!
-When most people meet Tina, she's hanging around with her more innocuous friends. I've been introduced to Tina a few times, thankfully she never did much for me.
-But Tina is a slut. She'll steal your husband right out of your bed at night when she thinks you're sleeping.
After ten+ years together, building a future together, building a life together,... I was assured he had never cheated on me as he walked out the door for the last time, with Tina and his stuff. His eyes are dead now. Those eyes that so dazzled when we met are dead. They don't even broadcast the tweak now, or hide the lie, just dead.
That was 5-6 years ago. The partying has continued non-stop since then. I learned from a mutual friend that he recently discovered that he has seroconverted. Presumably that happened a while ago,,, presumably after we split.
I detached emotionally when he walked out the door all those years ago, emotions bled dry. But I've succeeded in getting friends to try to intercede, but their efforts fall on deaf ears. It's like any other addiction, until the addict admits there is a problem, there is nothing anyone can do. If you suspect someone you know is involved with Tina, pay attention to their eyes. The life fades from them when things approach the serious stage. Everyone mentions the teeth grinding as a sure give away, but I can see it in the eyes.
Recommendations for Action-
I also want to share how my clients have been instrumental in promoting their own healing. Although research is needed to validate these arguments, the steps below reflect how quite a few of my clients have taken themselves out of the pit:
Work towards stopping crystal use. If the pattern of use has become abusive (more than you want) or addictive (out of control), a period of full abstinence from crystal is necessary. Moreover, even if they only initially intended to "take a break" from crystal, some people who stop and continue the therapeutic process of recovery choose to not go back to crystal, which is then too strongly associated with a very chaotic period of their life. This does not mean that harm reduction programs, also called "recovery readiness" programs, are not just as helpful as abstinence-based programs. They are extremely important for those who can't seem to stop but know that the party is over and need to get help.
Do more than one thing. It is crucial to invest in a multifaceted process. Recovery from crystal usually takes more than self-help groups or psychotherapy alone. The best is a combination of: psychotherapy, medical, and psychiatric treatment to address underlying chemical imbalances; twelve-step meetings or support groups that expose you to other people's recovery and resources; and most importantly help with breaking through social isolation. It is crucial to build a community of professionals and friends where it is comfortable and safe to be gay, HIV positive or negative, and in recovery from crystal.
Go deeper. Long-term recovery goes beyond getting the crisis and the use under control. Whether through therapy and/or through spiritual examination, people need to take a deep look at what led them to lose themselves so profoundly. As Tom, Mark and Sean demonstrate, shame, loneliness, depression and grief are at the core of what needs to be addressed.
Find passion and meaning. Recovery is hard work. It entails a clear dedication to oneself. Such motivation is more easily found by being connected to yourself and to those who nurture a life that you feel enthusiastic about. Professional, personal, relational and geographic choices sometimes wait to be made. Remember that recovery is the opportunity to give your life meaning and purpose where your freedom prevails, again or maybe even for the first time.
Jean Malpas, M.A. is a psychotherapist formerly with the New York Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center and currently in private practice. He can be reached by phone at 212-255-4138 or at JeanMalpasMA@hotmail.com.
from the Edge Boston-
As anyone who went clubbing or to one of those multi-party Circuit weekends in the late ’90s or early ’00s knows, Miss Tina (as crystal methamphetamine is known among its gay users) was an essential part of staying awake and having sex--plenty of sex, much of it unsafe. But how much is tina use ebbing among the affluent gay men who were at the forefront of the epidemic--and, not incidentally, have been at the forefront of efforts to stop its rampant use? Anecdotal evidence points to programs that began with activist Peter Staley’s bus and telephone-kiosk ads in New York City’s Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen neighborhoods as making tina uncool (or at least less cool). But how effective have they been?
For those who track crystal meth usage among gay and bisexual men, once again, knowledge is power. But a lack of coordinated information as well reluctance on the part of state and federal funders to acknowledge the link between drug use and sexuality often hinders or dilutes their efforts. Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, Professor of Applied Psychology and Public Health at New York University, is a prominent researcher into gay men’s lives. All of the data that comes to Halkitis and other who are studying meth usage among urban gay men comes from other sources than national surveys. A lack of reliable data has complicated any tracking of what is generally acknowledged as an epidemic.
As it is, researchers attempting to identify emerging trends in order to create more effective prevention and treatment programs must cull their data from a patchwork of unrelated regional studies. A comprehensive national snapshot could easily be provided, says Halkitis, if the federal government would include a sexual orientation item to the National Drug Survey , which happens annually. Whatever Halkitis can cull from recent surveys among New York City’s (mostly white, and mostly professional) gay men is that meth use is trending downward among young men and Caucusions. That’s the good news. The bad news is that, as Tina use has become less acceptable among those populations, it has been trending upward sharply among gay urban African-American men.
Project Desire, a study completed in the summer of 2008, looked at meth use among 540 18- to 29-year-olds from throughout New York City (the five boroughs). Still in the midst of crunching data, Halkitis notes that 70 percent of those surveyed were African-American--a demographic which, overall, has seen a sharp increase in use. Among younger African-Americans, there’s almost no meth use, Halkitis says: "It’s not a drug gay men are using when they’re young."
Reflecting anecdotal evidence from party producers and bar owners, getting drunk on alcohol (remember that?) and Ecstasy have become the inebriants of choice among the young, according to Halkitis. He emphasizes, however, that Project Desire’s demographics represent "a potential entry point before they start using meth." The challenge is to to target this specific age group and start intervening before they start using, he adds: "The window of opportunity to effect change closes by the time people are in their thirties, and it’s too late."
Project Hope, a 2006-2007 study involving meth use among black gay men, confirmed anecdotal evidence that the drug was making significant inroads among a population that previously was relatively unscathed by meth abuse. Tina had been perceived as a drug for "Chelsea boys." No more. Halkitis notes that the study indicated meth is a drug that’s infiltrated the African American community. Compared to Ecstasy or even cocaine, meth delivers a huge effect at a low cost. "An African American man who is already experiencing stigma for being black, gay, and poor turns to this drug to cope," Halkitis says. In the early stages of studies on the problem, there was much speculation that black men wouldn’t be using this drug. But recent upswings and studies like Project Hope definitively prove that they have taken to Tina in a big way. "In the last six months, we’ve been hearing a lot of anecdotal evident that there is increasing use among men of color," Stackhouse says. "We’ve been hearing that particularly in Brooklyn the price is low."
For men of color, the intersection of meth use and unsafe sex is "a perfect storm. There’s a very large percentage that have HIV, don’t know, and are using crystal meth in their sexual experiences." Another study by Halkitis, Project Pump, also backs up anecdotal assertions that meth use has decreased among Caucasians while increasing sharply among minority populations. Completed in 2006, the study surveyed 311 men from New York City gyms who were asked about their meth use over the past six months. Overall, 24 percent indicated usage; 28 percent of black men reported using; 30 percent of Latino men; but only 15 percent of white men. "Meth was going to stay confined to white middle class men based on their experience from the drug on the West Coast," Halkitis says. But the Project Pump results confirmed Halkitis’ instinct that "New York City is different. While somewhat segregated, races tend to interact much more than in other cities. So we were arguing it was going to appear in the black community."
Disparity of usage among racial lines wasn’t the only surprise that came from Project Pump’s results. "The city, which funded the study, thought we’d find behaviors like no unsafe sex or drug use because they go to the gym," Halkitis reports. Instead, he and his peers had to explain this conundrum to dumfounded officials, who couldn’t’ wrap their heads around the concept of men getting buff so they could further enjoy the benefits of sex while high. "They were actually shocked to find out that some gay men go to the gym because they want a certain body and want to act a certain way," Halkitis says. That public health officials may have been scandalized by behavior that is understood as a way of life among the gay community would be amusing--were it not so problematic in terms of properly funding prevention and treatment.
Is ’Harm Reduction’ the Answer?
There is a general consensus among those working with gay men that harm reduction, not abstinence, is a far more effective technique. "Harm reduction" is a controversial umbrella term for programs that don’t tell the user to quit entirely. Instead, they encourage cutting back or limiting to certain times or experiences and not using at other times; or at least using less. Harm reduction, its proponents believe, engages users in an ongoing dialogue on their own level that ultimately facilitates more healthy behavior. Michael Siever, a strong advocate of harm reduction, stresses the ultimately positive impact that comes from accepting the fact that
"There will always be people who do drugs, and there are things we can do to minimize the harms caused by their drug use," says Siever, founder of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Stonewall Project and founder of a website dedicated to educating LGBT crystal users about harm reduction. For nearly 11 years, the Stonewall Project, founded by Siever and funded by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, has provided LGBT harm reduction counseling. "We’re here to help people at whatever stage they’re at." says Siever. "Our motto is ’You don’t have to be clean and sober to come in here or even want to be.’ Most places, historically, won’t take someone until they say they’re ready to quit. We try to help people before things get so bad." Those methods of help include encouraging users to reduce the drug’s harmful effects by using less often, altering their method of intake (from injecting to snorting or smoking, drinking liquids, and consuming solids on a regular basis. Over time, these behaviors become habits. "There are methods of helping reduce the harm event when people are not ready to stop using the drug," Siever says.
That approach often yields better long-term results than abstinence only programs: "Ninety percent of the guys we work with eventually come to the conclusion that they need to stay away from this drug," Siever reports. Lasting change, Stackhouse says, comes from encouraging casual meth users to contemplate how it’s impacting their lives. "They may choose to limit or stop their use," he says. For those who transition from weekend partying to going to the extreme level of use where it becomes an addictive dependence, Miss Tina can indeed be a bitch. Halkitis says there’s merit to programs that "meet people where they are and don’t pass judgment or demand immediate abstinence." But he also believes that there’s a smarter approach, "which is one that addresses the link that exist between meth use and sex." He praises the work that Thomas Patterson is doing at the University of California-San Diego, using successful methods gleaned from HIV prevention programs to address meth use in heterosexuals and gay men. "I think that’s the smartest approach in terms of all of those talk therapy models," Halkitis says. "When you acknowledge that desire for fantastical sex, you also address the desire to use meth to have that kind of sex. The folks in San Diego have shown some real promise with this approach."
A realistic sense of meth’s power over users--whether it’s the lure of the high or the heightened quality of the sex--may be the key to engaging gay men to acknowledge the toll that the drug takes on their bodies and minds. No matter the treatment or prevention methodology, Siever emphasizes the paramount importance of being "very evenhanded and realistic about the pros and cons of crystal meth. People wouldn’t do the drug if it wasn’t fun. I think it’s important to acknowledge that, be realistic about it, and talk about it."