Patterson, T.L., Semple, S.J., Zians, J.K. et al. J Urban Health (2005) 82: i120. doi:10.1093/jurban/jti031
Methamphetamine use has become a major problem among communities of men having sex with men (MSM), where it has been associated with high-risk behaviors. Methamphetamine is often combined with other drugs that may increase its risks and adverse health consequences. To examine differences in background characteristics, HIV-risk behaviors, and psychosocial variables among polydrug-using HIV-positive MSM, the researchers classified a sample of 261 HIV-positive, methamphetamine-using MSM into three user groups: (1) methamphetamine only; (2) methamphetamine, marijuana, and poppers (light polydrug users); and (3) methamphetamine and other drugs (e.g., cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and ketamine; heavy polydrug users). Only 5% reported using only methamphetamine during the past 2 months; 31% were classified as light polydrug users, and 64% were classified as heavy polydrug users. Heavy polydrug users were significantly younger than light polydrug users (35.6 vs. 38.4, P<.01) and reported using methamphetamine for significantly fewer years (10.3 vs. 14.2 years, P<.001), but did not differ in the amount and frequency of methamphetamine or alcohol consumed. Heavy polydrug users reported significantly more sex partners of HIV-negative and unknown serostatus and had more unprotected sex with these partners. Heavy polydrug users had significantly higher scores on impulsivity and negative self-perceptions, as compared with those of light polydrug users. In this sample of HIV-positive MSM, most of those who used methamphetamine had a pattern of polydrug use. Heavy polydrug users reported significantly more high-risk sexual behaviors and tended toward higher levels of impulsivity than light polydrug users. The implications of these findings are two-fold: (1) Longitudinal research is needed to establish causal relationships among methamphetamine use, impulsivity, negative self-perceptions, and sexual risk behavior in this target population; (2) behavioral interventions should evaluate whether methamphetamine use and sexual risk behavior can be reduced by modifying impulsivity and negative self-perceptions.