"It's not rocket science, what I do": Self-directed harm reduction strategies among drug using ethno-racially diverse gay and bisexual men.

Published: October 15, 2010


BACKGROUND: Research on harm reduction has typically focused on broad-based or organisational strategies such as needle exchange and opiate substitute programmes. Less attention has been paid to the self-directed harm reduction practices of substance users themselves. Few studies have focused on sexual minority populations such as gay and bisexual men and fewer still on the marginalised groups that constitute these populations. This paper identifies self-directed harm reduction strategies among substance using ethno-racially diverse gay and bisexual men.

METHODS: This article presents findings from the Party Drugs Study in Toronto’s gay dance club scene, a community-based qualitative study in Toronto, Canada. We present a thematic analysis of interviews with 43 gay and bisexual men from diverse ethno-racial backgrounds about their substance use in the gay dance club scene.

FINDINGS: We identify five self-directed harm reduction strategies: rationing, controlling or avoiding mixing, controlling quality, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and following guidelines during substance use.

CONCLUSIONS: We discuss our findings in relation to prior research and to critical theory. We suggest that drug users’ awareness of possible harm, and their personal investment in harm reduction, constitute a viable platform from which community-based and public health organisations may promote and strengthen harm reduction among gay and bisexual men from ethno-racially diverse backgrounds.

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