1. Introduce Yourself.

I am Sarah McCulloch, currently the External Relations Director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy with special responsibility for LGBT issues and Chair of the Manchester SSDP chapter.

2. What is Students for a Sensible Drug Policy?

Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK is a a national student movement campaigning for reform of the current drug laws. We neither encourage nor condemn drug use or users, but argue that drug use should be treated as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice matter. We seek to empower young people to get involved in the political process and push for sensible drug policies, particularly for students and young people, that are just and compassionate rather than ruinous and destructive. We set up last year in the UK after a successful decade of efforts by our American counterparts, and have about five or six chapters at the moment. If anyone would like to set one up at their uni please don’t hesitate to contact us.

3. How does Drug use affect the LGBT community?

Drug use is much, much higher in the LGBT community than in the straight community. LGB young people are 3 times more likely to take MDMA, 8 times more likely to take ketamine, and 25 times more likely to take Crystal meth than young straight people. Young lesbian and bisexual women are ten times more likely to smoke than heterosexual young women. Bisexuals are 204% more likely to take drugs than both heterosexuals and homosexuals. And, despite not having any recorded recreational drug use and for some reason lower drinking levels, the trans community’s substance abuse is off the scale.

4. Why do you think the amount of drug use in the LGBT community is so high compared to the straight/cisgendered community?

Mainstream gay culture is quite hedonistic and drugs are almost entirely accepted as a part of life. LGBT students either take drugs, have taken drugs in the past and chosen to stop, or are completely comfortable in the presence of people taking drugs. You would barely know drugs were illegal. When it comes to drug addiction and substance abuse, we all know many people take drugs to escape from their lives, and LGBT people have more than reason to escape. Despite advances in gay rights, LGBT people are still discriminated against, bullied, and made to feel rejected by society. LGB people are 375% more likely to self-harm than heterosexuals. They are four times as likely to have depression, young LGBT people have six times the national rate of suicide. It is thus not very surprising with such levels of mental health problems that substance abuse would be also correspondingly much higher.

5. What would you suggest are solutions to some of these problems?

Greater effort should be made to reach out to LGBT people with drug information, much of which isn’t reaching them because LGBT people simply don’t hang out in the same places as heterosexuals. Similarly, we need LGBT-specific treatment programmes for addicts, as in many cases LGBT people won’t seek treatment because of an aversion to an ignorant NHS, or feel umcomfortable talking about the circumstances of their use, much of which occurs in the gay community. But most pressingly, we need a coherent national strategy in order to address the specific issue of LGBT people and drug use. There are isolated project and studies being done, but there isn’t any kind of joined-up thinking going on to be really effective.

6. Where do I find out more?

Visit the SSDP UK website or attend your local society, details of which are on the website. For specific questions, feel free to email me at Sarah.McCulloch@student.manchester.ac.uk. For unbiased information on drugs, visit. Urban75 or Erowid. Whatever you do, stay safe.