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Fighting meth-fueled 'chemsex' in the LGBTQ community, West Hollywood takes a stand

Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

While it does not have the same national attention as the opioid crisis, methamphetamine in the Los Angeles area "is actually incredibly prevalent and incredibly dangerous," she said.

The town hall came at a time when, city leaders say, there is a critical shortage of spaces in West Hollywood that can and will accommodate addiction recovery groups. Currently, the fate of a run-down log cabin on Robertson Boulevard that hosts some two dozen sobriety meetings each week is up in the air. Beverly Hills owns the lot on which it sits and wants it gone; West Hollywood officials are trying to lease it to keep the meetings going.

Town hall panelist Jason De Puy, a drag queen, said the problem is rarely discussed openly. There are "influencers on Instagram with a hundred thousand followers, and they're doing crystal meth on the side, and no one understands or even knows that and everyone's scared to talk about it," he said.

De Puy, who has been sober for eight years, said that, like many young gay men who come to West Hollywood, he had not been taught about gay sex and was ashamed by it. He was introduced to crystal meth at a bathhouse, and it seemed to make intimacy easier and more euphoric.

The addiction quickly took over his life. He was homeless for a spell before moving into an apartment filled with cockroaches, fleas and bedbugs.

"Meth and sex kept me from having to deal with life," De Puy said.

 

"When I got sober, I had to learn how to have sex again because I was used to this seedy, dangerous, risky sex. ... You can go to the orgies, honey. You can go to the bathhouse. You can do this stuff sober," De Puy said.

In recent surveys of nearly 1,600 people in West Hollywood, more than 70% of respondents that meth use at community events, bars and clubs is a "pressing issue" for the city, according to the Safe West Hollywood Community Coalition.

The coalition and city employees recently have begun going to major events like LA Pride and West Hollywood's Halloween Carnaval to hand out free naloxone, a medication that can reverse drug overdoses, as well as condoms and testing strips to determine whether recreational drugs are laced with fentanyl.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the contamination of illicit drugs such as methamphetamine with fentanyl -- a synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin -- is a growing public health concern. Often, users are unaware that it has been added.

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