The Crystal, Pleasures and Sex between Men project was funded by the NHMRC and WA Health and began in 2017.

Crystal methamphetamine (aka ice, crystal, tina, meth) has had a particular impact on the gay community, where it's often used in sexual contexts such as dance parties, sex parties, sex-on-premises venues and saunas, and in private groups. In this study, we took a social practice approach to examine gay men’s crystal use. We drew on the concept of sex-based sociality – a unique pattern of social relations within the gay community whereby sex and drug taking can be part of building belonging and connectedness. We drew on this concept to develop more nuanced and relevant understandings about the ways crystal is used, the pleasures and risks associated with its use, and the everyday strategies men may employ to reduce these risks.

The specific aims of the study were:

  • to examine gay men’s patterns of crystal use and sex practices
  • to document how men protect themselves in situations of drug use and sex
  • to investigate how drug use and sex contribute to social relationships and identities for gay men.

Data was collected in four Australian capital cities – Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth, including 88 interviews with gay and bisexual men and 35 key informants working in the health policy, sexual health, harm reduction and blood borne virus prevention fields. The final year of the project included an innovative knowledge translation phase.

For more information, see this detailed project description

Research Centre

Centre for Social Research in Health

Research Area

HIV and Sexual Health | Sexuality, Health and Education | Hepatitis and Harm Reduction

Treloar, C., Hopwood, M, Drysdale, K. Lea, T, Holt, M, Dowsett, G., Aggleton, P., and Bryant, J. (2021). “Stigma as understood by key informants: A social ecological approach to gay and bisexual men’s use of crystal methamphetamine for sex”, International Journal of Drug Policy. Online 26 March 2021.

Drysdale, K. (2021). ‘Scene’ as a critical framing device: extending analysis of chemsex cultures. Sexualities

Drysdale, K., Bryant, J., Dowsett, G. W., Lea, T., Treloar, C., Aggleton, P., & Holt, M. (2021). Priorities and practices of risk reduction among gay and bisexual men in Australia who use crystal methamphetamine for sex. International Journal of Drug Policy

Drysdale, K. Bryant, J., Hopwood, M., Dowsett, GW, Holt, M., Lea, T., Aggelton, P., and Treloar, C. (2020). “Destabilising the ‘problem’ of chemsex: diversity in settings, relations and practices revealed in Australian gay and bisexual men’s crystal methamphetamine use”, International Journal of Drug Policy. Online 14 February 2020.

Bryant J, Hopwood M, Dowsett G.W., Aggleton P, Holt M, Lea T, Drysdale K, Treloar C (2018). The rush to risk when interrogating the relationship between methamphetamine use and sexual practice among gay and bisexual men. International Journal of Drug Policy

Hopwood, M., Drysdale, K., & Treloar, C. (2018). ‘Sunshine on a rainy day’: Crystal methamphetamine use among gay and bisexual men in Perth. Sydney: Centre for Social Research in Health, Sydney.

Lea, T., Kolstee, J., Lambert, S., Ness, R., Hannan, S., & Holt, M. (2017). Methamphetamine treatment outcomes among clients attending a treatment service for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. PLOS ONE, 12(2): e0172560.

Hopwood, M., Cama, E., & Treloar, C. (2016). Methamphetamine use among men who have sex with men in Australia: A literature review. Sydney: Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW Australia.

Lea, T., Mao, L., Hopwood, M., Prestage, G., Zablotska, I., de Wit, J., & Holt, M. (2016). Methamphetamine use among gay and bisexual men in Australia: trends in recent and regular use from the Gay Community Periodic Surveys. International Journal of Drug Policy, 29 (1), 66-72.

Hopwood, M., Lea, T., & Aggleton, P. (2015). Drug, sex and sociality: Factors associated with the recent sharing of injecting equipment among gay and bisexual men in Australia. International Journal of Drug Policy. 26(2), 210-213.

Hopwood, M., Lea T., & Aggleton, P. (2015). Multiple strategies are required to address the information and support needs of gay and bisexual men with hepatitis C in Australia. Journal of Public Health, 38 (1): 156-162.

Lea, T. Hopwood, M., & Aggleton, P. (2015). Hepatitis C knowledge among gay and other homosexually active men in Australia. Drug and Alcohol Review, 35(4), 477–483.

Hopwood, M., & Treloar, C. (2013). International policies to reduce illicit drug-related harm and illicit drug use. In P. Miller (Ed.), Interventions for Addiction: Comprehensive Addictive Behaviors and Disorders, Volume 3 (pp. 735-743), Elsevier Inc. San Diego: Academic Press.

Lea, T., Mao, L., Bath, N., Prestage, G., Zablotska, I., de Wit, J. & Holt, M. (2013). Injecting drug use among gay and bisexual men in Sydney: prevalence and associations with sexual risk practices and HIV and hepatitis C infection. AIDS & Behavior, 17(4), 1344-1351.

Dowsett, G.W., et al. (2005). Good gay men don’t get “messy”: Injecting drug use and gay community. Sexuality Research and Social Policy. 2(2): 22-36.

Southgate, E., & Hopwood, M. (2001). The role of folk pharmacology and lay experts in harm reduction: Sydney gay drug using networks. International Journal of Drug Policy, 12, 321-335.

Southgate, E., & Hopwood, M. (1999). Mardi Gras says ‘be drug free’: Accounting for resistance, pleasure and the demand for illicit drugs. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine, 3, 303-316.

In response to the research findings from the Crystal, Pleasure and Sex between Men project, researchers and community health organisations have collaborated to produce a series of podcasts about the personal use of crystal.

The Crystal Clear: Negotiating pleasures and risk podcasts were identified as an appropriate way to disseminate the research to reach people who may be concerned about their own or others’ crystal use. The podcasts do not endorse substance use.

Episode 1. Crystal: The Beauty and the Trap

Episode 2. Cultures of Care: Conversations with people who provide support to crystal users

Episode 3. What Workers Say: Health care professionals engaging gay and bisexual men using crystal for sex

Related podcast: SpeakEasy season 5, episode 3

NHMRC Project Grant, Department of Health Western Australia

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