At what age do gay men commence using drugs?

Stream: Drugs: Experiences of drug use, prevention and treatment across different populations
Date: Thursday, 31 March 2016
Time: 11.15 am – 1.00 pm


Objective: To examine lifetime history of drug use among gay and bisexual men (GBM). Method: Flux is a national, online cohort study of drug use among GBM commenced in 2014 with 2,251 useable responses at baseline. Results: Mean age was 32.8 years. 56.5% had ever used ‘party drugs’ and 69.9% had ever used marijuana. The mean age for first use of drugs was 18.7 for marijuana and 21.6 for party drugs. The mean age of first use of illicit drugs has declined over time: Among men born before the 1960s the mean age of first using marijuana and party drugs was 22 and 30 respectively, but among men born in the 1990s these mean ages were 17 and 18 respectively. The first party drug used among men born before the 1960s was speed (63%) and among men born in the 1990s was ecstasy (62%). Men born in the 1970s were the most likely to have ever used any illicit drugs (79% marijuana; 70% ecstasy; crystal 41%; GHB 32%), and men born in the 1990s were least likely to have ever used illicit drugs (60% marijuana; 31% ecstasy; crystal 5%; GHB 8%). Men who socialized more with GBM who also used drugs commenced using party drugs (p=0.009) and marijuana (p<0.001) at an earlier age. Conclusion: Although younger men are less likely to have ever used illicit drugs, the age at which GBM first use drugs has declined over time. Drug use in GBM’s peer networks may influence earlier use of drugs.


Mo Hammoud (Presenter), The Kirby Institute
After completing a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) degree, Mo commenced his PhD at the Kirby Institute looking at gay community subcultures in relation to drug use and sexual risk behaviours. Mo has worked on several research projects; most notable, he implemented a five-year follow-up survey that looked at Sydney residence attitudes and perceptions, conducted qualitative interviews with high-profile politicians regarding current events, and investigated gay men’s experience on living with prostate cancer. Mo is currently working as a project manager at the Kirby Institute on the Flux study-a cohort study on the incidence of, and factors associated with drug use.

Garrett Prestage, The Kirby Institute; Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society
Garrett is a sociologist who works in both quantitative and qualitative social and behavioural research and is committed to community-based research. He mainly works in the fields of risk behaviour and sexuality. Garrett has been actively involved in the gay community for over thirty years and has worked in gay community-based research since 1983. He currently leads the Flux study and the HIV Seroconversion Study, and is an Investigator on the Gay Community Periodic Surveys as well as several other studies. Garrett is also associated with the Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society at La Trobe University.

Louisa Degenhardt, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Australia
Louisa Degenhardt first commenced work at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC), Faculty of Medicine, UNSW in 1998 and has worked across a wide range of projects examining the epidemiology of illicit drug use, comorbid mental health problems, and illicit drug surveillance. She is currently conducting a national prospective cohort study of entrants to pharmaceutical opioid use for the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain. She has more recently extended her focus upon the health of young people, and is currently involved in half a dozen local and national cohort studies.

Toby Lea, Centre for Social Research in Health
Toby Lea is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health. His primary area of research is blood-borne virus prevention among gay and other men who have sex with men, focused on alcohol and other drug use and sexual practices. Other areas of research interest include substance use and harm reduction in nightlife settings, and health service utilisation and policy responses to substance use among same-sex attracted and sex/gender diverse people.

Fengyi Jin, The Kirby Institute
Jeff is an epidemiologist and a NHMRC Post-doctoral Research Fellow. He completed his PhD in 2006 on sexually transmissible infections in gay men based on the Health in Men study. He has extensive experiences in data management and data analysis of complex cohort data. He is the co-project leader of the SPANC study investigation the natural history of anal human papillomavirus infection in gay men in an effort to prevent anal cancer in this population.