SAN FRANCISCO — Methamphetamine users who focus on cutting back or practicing safer methods of getting high — instead of trying to quit the drug altogether — are also able to reduce risky sexual behaviors that can make them vulnerable to HIV, according to San Francisco researchers as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
In a paper released April 18, researchers from the University of California at San Francisco and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation looked at a harm reduction program for gay and bisexual men who use methamphetamine or other stimulants. The program, called the Stonewall Project, does not require participants to abstain from using, but encourages them to consider behavior changes that can improve their health in more subtle ways, the Chronicle article said.
The researchers, who studied 211 gay and bisexual men enrolled in the Stonewall Project, found that over a period of six to 12 months the men cut back on the amount of stimulant drugs they used. They also reported less severe symptoms of addiction and improved employment, the report found.
Plus, the men reported practicing safer sex while on methamphetamine. They had fewer anal sex partners and were less likely to engage in other risky behaviors like not using condoms, the report said.
Harm reduction programs have been widely accepted and used in San Francisco for more than a decade and the Department of Public Health requires its contractors to practice harm reduction, the Chronicle article said.
But it’s still controversial in the addiction field, where many proponents of 12-step programs and other treatment protocols focus on drug abstinence.
The idea behind abstinence programs is that no level of drug use is acceptable, and that may apply especially to stimulants like methamphetamine, which are closely tied to extreme risk-taking behaviors, the article said.