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Who uses Tina?

In the past, illegal crystal meth use in North America was associated with biker gangs, and also had popularity in the hippie culture of the 1960s. More recently, the low cost, relative ease of manufacture, increased distribution and availability of Tina, has led to a rise in use among a variety of populations. Its use in gay urban cultures, initially in San Francisco and New York, has spread to other U.S. cities, Europe, Australia and beyond.

In Canada, it appeared that the trend to more widespread use of crystal meth among gay and bi men began in Vancouver and has since spread to Toronto and other centres. Scientific data on use rates in Toronto among gay and bi men are not known. This is one reason we have undertaken a research project to get a better handle on this.

Current estimates on use among gay and bi men in Toronto range from 6 – 25%. While this usage rate is low compared to other drugs and alcohol, Tina is one of the most addictive of illicit drugs and has other dangerous attributes that have prompted many researchers to place Tina in a class by itself. The combined experience we have on the street, online, in bathhouses, at sex parties and clinically, is that crystal meth use among men who have sex with men has risen significantly in Toronto. There is also evidence that men who have sex with men are perhaps the largest and most vulnerable population of users currently in Toronto.

Requests for services and supports among gay and bisexual men have increased significantly. The Rainbow Services department of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) reports that a high percentage of gay and bisexual men seeking help with substance use have issues with crystal meth. The numbers of clients accessing treatment for this substance are much greater in this programme than for other populations serviced by CAMH.