The consequences of substance use among gay and bisexual men: a consensual qualitative research analysis

Mullens, Amy B. and Young, Ross McD. and Hamernik, Elisabeth and Dunne, Michael (2009) The consequences of substance use among gay and bisexual men: a consensual qualitative research analysis. Sexual Health, 6 (2). pp. 139-152. ISSN 1448-5028


Background: Substance use is common among gay/bisexual men and is associated with significant health risks (e.g. HIV transmission). The consequences of substance use, across the range of substances commonly used, have received little attention. The purpose of this study is to map participant’s beliefs about the effects of substance use to inform prevention, health promotion and clinical interventions.

Methods: Participants were interviewed about experiences
regarding their substance use and recruited through medical and sexual health clinics. Data were collected though a
consumer panel and individual interviews. Responses regarding perceived consequences of substance use were coded
using Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) methodology.

Results: Most participants reported lifetime use of alcohol,
cannabis, stimulants and amyl nitrite, and recent alcohol and cannabis use. A wide range of themes were identified
regarding participant’s thoughts, emotions and behaviours (including sexual behaviours) secondary to substance use,
including: cognitive functioning, mood, social interaction, physical effects, sexual activity, sexual risk-taking, perception of sexual experience, arousal, sensation, relaxation, disinhibition, energy/activity level and numbing. Analyses indicated several consequences were consistent across substance types (e.g. cognitive impairment, enhanced mood), whereas others were highly specific to a given substance (e.g. heightened arousal post amyl nitrite use).

Conclusions: Prevention and interventions need to consider the variety of effects of substance use in tailoring effective education programs to reduce harms. A diversity of consequences appear to have direct and indirect impacts on decision-making, sexual activity and risk-taking. Findings lend support for the role of specific beliefs (e.g. expectancies) related to substance use on risk-related cognitions, emotions and behaviours.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to published version in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Sciences - Department of Psychology
Date Deposited: 17 May 2016 23:47
Last Modified: 20 May 2016 00:15
Uncontrolled Keywords: alcohol; drugs; HIV transmission; MSM; risk-taking; sexual behaviour
Fields of Research : 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1071/SH08061

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