David Mariner

DC Gay, Lesbian, Bi Students 10 Times More Likely to Have Used Meth

Filed By David Mariner | March 24, 2008 5:26 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Politics
Tags: gay rights, gay youth, schools

Gay, lesbian, and bisexual students in DC public schools are 10 times more likely to have tried crystal meth than their peers, according to a new fact sheet released by DC Public Schools. 23.5% of self identified GLB identified students have used meth compared to 2.48% of heterosexual students. The fact sheet, available on the DCPS website, documents widespread and significant health disparities faced by Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual (GLB) high school students. Information about transgender students was not collected in this survey.

The data comes from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), conducted every two years by DC Public Schools in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2007 marked the first year that the local version of the survey asked questions about GLB identity. Questions about sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression have been included in YRBS surveys in more than a dozen states.

The DC fact sheet does not explain what accounts for the numerous health disparities including crystal meth use, but is likely in part related to a school climate that can be hostile and unsafe. An analysis of similar data collected in Massachusetts found that "at-school victimization" is associated with differences in health risk behaviors. (Bontempo DE, D'Augelli AR. Effects of at-school victimization and sexual orientation on lesbian, gay, or bisexual youths' health risk behavior. J Adolesc Health. 2002 May;30(5):364-74.)

GLB students in DC Public Schools reported similar concerns about safety:

* 26.3 percent of GLB identified students in DC Public Schools report that they have stayed home from school one or more days in the past month because they felt unsafe in school or on their way to school.

* 30.6% of GLB identified students were bullied at least once on school property in the last year.

More information about the survey is available on The DC Center Website.

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It's sad, but I'm not really surprised.

Yeah, that's sad. Does anyone know why meth in particular?

Hey Alex,

It's not just crystal meth, but that is the most extreme example. The GLB high school students were also six times more likely to have tried ecstasy, for example.

But crystal meth is more common among older GLBT folks, particularly gay men, so I think that's part of it.

There's a lot of analysis of the data that DCPS didn't do that they haven't done yet as well ... for example, we know that LGBT folks are more likely to smoke than straight folks, but they didn't do a comparison of smoking rates between LGB students and other students, for example.

I wouldn't be suprised if substance use across the board was higher. And again, to be really clear, I attribute that to the unsupportive, and sometimes unsafe/hostile environment GLB students describe in the YRBS. Some people may try and twist this data around and blame the GLB students, so we really have to watch out for that.


The "Why?" is the important question.

Despite what the government wants us to believe, kids don't start abusing various drugs and alcohol because they haven't seen enough public service announcements, or because the PSA's aren't scary enough.

Drug and alcohol addiction are notthe "problem," they're the symptom of a much larger problem. Typically this is about not feeling that you fit in, memories that you don't want to deal with, or "not feeling comfortable in your own skin."

And drugs and alcohol offer a very effective (albeit temporary) vacation from those feelings and problems. As a result, it's not surprising that any demographic or sociographic group that grows up having to suppress their feelings of alienation and not fitting in would be much better candidates for abuse of any substance.

Luckily, even though it's at a glacial pace, society is becoming more enlightened to the realities of substance abuse and its origins. But we still have a long way to go.

Jim Stephens
Chief Information Officer
All Positive Options

Hey Jim,

This is all great information and all reasons why people use drugs and alcohol.

But they are not reasons why Gay, Lesbian, and Bi Youth are MORE LIKELY to use drugs and alcohol than other kids.

I think we should be clear that are GLB youth in DC Public Schools are at greater risk for substance use, depression, and suicide than other youth... and this is in large part due to the fact that many GLB kids in DC Public Schools are experiencing unwelcoming and in some cases hostile or unsafe school environments.

I agree David, but I don't really see how we're at odds with each other's opinions. Alcohol and drugs are ostensiby "medications" used to eliminate or attenuate bad feelings. Homophobia (originating from staff and students) is something GLB youth have to deal with that the average person doesn't. So on top of everything else they're dealing with at that age (hormones, a still-developing ego and brain, etc.) GLB youth have one additional cross to carry, and that's their sexual orientation.

The fear of marginalization, exclusion, as well as psychological and physical abuse are all just additional reasons why someone might begin self-medicating.

Who knew that crystal meth was prevalent in DC? I wrongly assumed that it was a rural drug of choice! In addition, is this article really scientific, because it seems to contribute to a "stereotype" that gays are the only one's who participate in high risk behavior! Finally, parents, guardians and the schools should teach self defense & self confidence to GLBT early on in life. Forget that "tolerance" crap!

p.s. DM please contact me, but don't hack me.. People are watching!