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Gay Docs: "Club Drug Epidemic, Severe Health Risk"

March 16, 2000

San Francisco -- An organization of 2,000 physicians and medical students has urged the federal government to fund research, treatment, and education focused on the increasing and indiscriminate use of drugs, among them so-called "club drugs."

"We cannot wait any longer," said Donald I. Abrams, MD, President of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA). "We are seeing a severe increase in the abuse of methamphetamine, ecstasy, ketamine, gamma-hydroxbutyrate (GHB) and nitrates (poppers). We are seeing the devastating results in our emergency rooms. Unfortunately, that's not the end of it," Abrams added. "There is potential for even greater harm because we are not clear about the long-term effects."

Abrams, an HIV specialist and leading researcher in the study of medical marijuana, said that GLMA has sounded the club drug alarm because the message isn't getting to the research community or to the people using the drugs who need to know what kind of dangers they face."

Indiscriminate use of club drugs appears to be highest among gay and bisexual males in the LGBT population, based on the increase of acute episodes in emergency rooms, Abrams indicated. However, because of the lack of research data, even less is known about club-drug misuse among lesbian and transgender populations.

Such club drugs as methamphetamine are being abused outside the party and rave circuits as well. Meth use, particularly in the U.S. Northwest, is rising at an alarming rate.

GLMA policy calls for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, National Institutes of Health, other government agencies, as well as corporate and private foundations to step up efforts and funding allocations for community-based research and educational programs.

"In addition to the immediate dangers of these drugs," Abrams said, "the potential for drug interaction with prescriptions, including antiretroviral drugs, is death. It is also clear that there could be permanent depletion or destruction of neurotransmitters such as serotonin that could lead to depressions that are not responsive to currently available antidepressants.

"We need to have some answers to some very serious questions before the club drug phenomena becomes a full-blown epidemic," Abrams said, "and we lose another talented generation of LGBT people."

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association is an organization of more than 2000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender physicians, medical students, and their supporters in all 50 U.S. states and 12 countries. Founded in 1981, GLMA works to combat homophobia within the medical profession and in society at large and to promote quality health care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients.

Contact: Ron Tierney, 415-255-4547, ext 309 or

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