According to research by Stonewall Scotland 44% of gay and bisexual men in Scotland report using drugs in the last 12 months compared to just 11% of men in general.

People take drugs for many reasons. Some people take drugs because they like the way it makes them feel or because they are curious about the effects. Other people take drugs to help them cope with personal problems and sometimes people take drugs because of peer pressure.

What do recreational drugs do to me?

The effects of a drug are dependent on the kind of drug it is. Most recreational drugs fall into one of three types. Stimulants (cocaine, speed) make you feel full of energy and full of confidence. Depressants (like heroin) relax you and hallucinogens (LSD, magic mushrooms) distort your ability to view reality and can give you hallucinations.

Every drug can affect people in different ways and you won’t know how a drug will affect you until you have taken it. The exact effects can be different the next time you take it or if you take it after having drunk alcohol or other recreational drugs. For more information on the specific drugs and their effects you can visit Know the Score.

What does the Law say?

Most recreational drugs are controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act in the UK. Drugs controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act are illegal to have (possession), produce, give away or sell. Recently “legal highs” have been in the news. For information about these types of drugs and how they are sometimes used, look at our section on New Psychoactive Substances.

What are the risks of taking recreational drugs?

There are a lot of risks when taking drugs. Different drugs affect the body in different ways and it is always sensible to make sure you are fully aware of what drug you are taking and know how it may affect you before taking it.

Some types of drug can increase the demand on your cardiovascular system (heart and lungs) speeding up your heart rate and breathing which can put pressure on your heart. Other drugs can have the opposite effect and slow your heart rate and breathing down so low it can be fatal. Drugs that make you hallucinate can mess up your ability to perceive time and movements.

Mixing recreational drugs with alcohol can be very dangerous due to the potentially very serious effects of the interaction of alcohol and different drugs in the body.

For more information about specific drugs, their effects and their risks, have a look at the Know the Score website.

What about recreational drugs and my sexual health?

For some people taking recreational drugs can contribute to increased risk of STIs and HIV because you can feel less inhibited and possibly make choices or engage in activities you might not normally choose to when sober.

In our own FAQ Scotland report, men told us they worry about not remembering exactly what they have done when they mix sex and drugs. Men also told us they think using drugs can affect the decisions they make about sex.

This can lead to more risky behaviours, including having sex when you might otherwise not. In these situations you might not use a condom when you would normally, or damage the condom while putting it on or during sex.

If you feel that your recreational drug use is affecting your sexual health, you can speak to the staff at the Steve Retson Project.

What About PrEP?

PrEP is the name given to medicines that can be taken by someone who is HIV negative to reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV. PrEP needs to be taken regularly and as instructed to keep the level of drug high enough to prevent infection. If PrEP isn’t taken as instructed the level of medication may not be high enough to stop HIV infection.

PrEP is not a catch-all safer sex strategy, PrEP only protects against HIV infection. You could still get other STIs like gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia. As condoms are still the best way to prevent these and other STIs we recommend that you use condoms too.

You can find out more about PrEP in our PrEP FAQ section, including how it works, the eligibility criteria and how to make an appointment to talk to us about PrEP.

What can I do if I feel I need help with my recreational drug use?

If you feel that your recreational drug use is beginning to affect your relationships or your physical or mental health it is important to speak to someone about it. You can speak to anyone you trust and feel comfortable discussing the issue with; it could be a friend, family member or a health professional.

You can speak to someone at Steve Retson Project if you feel able to or we can help you find the right service to provide support.

You can contact us by calling 0141 211 8130 to make an appointment at one of our clinics.