A Perfect Solution to a Perfect Storm

Gay Meth Addicts Don't Need More Government Intervention; They Need A Savior

In a New York Times op-ed last week, Jim Mangia issued a call for action on "another crisis we're not talking about"—the crisis of gay men dying because of meth addiction. He explained how he came of age as a gay man in Greenwich Village in the 1980s when AIDS came on the scene. At one point, he wrote, so many of his friends and lovers were dying that he was attending a funeral every other weekend. But, to his dismay, elected officials at that time didn't care about gay men dying. And now, similarly, he lamented, gay men are dying from meth addiction, and the government is not paying enough attention to that either.

He pointed to a Cast Center article about high rates of meth use in the gay community. (Cast Center is an LA area mental health and addiction treatment center.) Citing a 2006 NIH study on crystal meth use by gay men, "Crystal methamphetamine and sexual sociality in an urban gay subculture: an elective affinity," Cast Center therapist Patrick O'Neil referred to meth as "sort of the perfect gay drug," and what he meant by that is summed up fairly well in the abstract of the NIH study. It made two observations. In everyday terminology, it said that (1) gay men use meth to overcome insecurities about themselves and their sexual performance and to increase sexual pleasure, and (2) this pattern of using meth as a disinhibitor and sexual stimulant is linked to unsafe sexual practices and therefore increases users' risk of contracting HIV. And so, meth is the perfect gay drug in the same way certain weather patterns converge to create the perfect storm.

Pretty much any adolescent could have told you that sexual promiscuity and drug use are risky behaviors, and that if you put them together, you multiply your risk factors. But not, apparently, Mr. Mangia. Returning to his op-ed, he summed up the Cast Center article and NIH study with the obtuse, "Gay men are more likely to try meth than straight men," (never mind the why).

Instead, he supplied his own why: "One explanation for this could be that gay men struggle with acceptance in ways straight men don't have to," (never mind all the "progress" on LGBT affirmation). And then, after telling about losing more friends and lovers to meth, he issued his plea. "I've watched gay men suffer from meth addiction for over 20 years—and it's only getting worse. … Elected officials, gay leaders, health care centers and community centers must develop funding and programming to respond to this crisis. Universities and research institutions must begin intervention studies that can inform community-based practice."

I share Mr. Mangia's dismay over addiction. I don't want another single person to fall into the vortex of it. But in his scattershot, "Somebody has to do something!" call for action, he is, if you'll excuse the tired expression, seriously barking up the wrong tree. As for funding and programming, the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008 substantially increased insurance coverage requirements for mental health treatment—so much so that addiction treatment has become a veritable cash cow industry (see Firm Steps to Rehab, Salvo 45). As for research institutions, the very NIH study he pinned his plea to merely "discovered" what most of us already know. Rampant sex and drug use make for a wicked combination.

Mangia is the president and CEO of St. John's Well Child and Family Centers, a nonprofit string of clinics in south Los Angeles, and the founder of the South Los Angeles Health & Human Rights Conference, an advocacy organization for government-run health care and basically all things leftwing. Whether his cry for government "help" arises from some honest belief that government actually can help gay addicts (in which case he would be well-meaning but misguided), or gay deaths due to addiction is just another useful "crisis" for him to agitate over (in which case he would be acting as a shameless, left-wing opportunist), I don't know. Perhaps it's some of both.

What I do know is this. Judeo-Christian teachings about self-control have been around since antiquity. If we do not master our own bodies and the myriad urges we experience daily, then we become enslaved to whatever we give ourselves over to. This goes for both sex and drugs, and the crisis he is highlighting illustrates this timeless biblical tenet. Furthermore, any addiction counselor could tell him that a man will never overcome his addiction until he takes responsibility for his own choices. This, too, goes for sex and drugs, and Mr. Mangia will never help gay addicts as long as he allows them to blame their indiscretions on other people's opinions about their sexuality.

Here's the crisis Mr. Mangia would do well to start paying attention to. He could question his own habitual practice of looking to the government to remedy the problems of human sin and self-destruction. And if he wants to go one giant leap better, he could investigate more of those biblical teachings. There he will find the One man who not only sets the enslaved free, but who went on to overcome the problems of death and destruction for us all.

has a BS in Computer Science and worked in software development with IBM until she hopped off the career track to be a full-time mom. She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she works as Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

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