Time Since First Acting on Same-Sex Attraction and Recreational Drug Use among Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM): Is There an Effect of “Gay Age”?

Cara E. Rice, Sara A. Vasilenko, Stephanie T. Lanza, John A. Davis, Karen S. Fields, Melissa Ervin, Abigail Norris Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Men who have sex with men (MSM) have higher rates of substance use compared to men who have sex with women. Among MSM, drug use is linked to higher-risk sexual behavior and acquisition of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Objectives: We hypothesize that time since first acting on one's same sex attraction, or one's “gay age”, could be predictive of drug using behavior. Methods: We examined this question among 176 MSM, aged 18–35, presenting at a public sexual health clinic. Behavioral data were captured using interviewer- and self-administered surveys and clinical data were extracted from medical records. We used modified Poisson regression to examine associations between gay age and recent recreational drug use, and separately, between gay age and recent marijuana use. Results: In total, 43% of participants reported recent marijuana use and 26% of participants reported recent use of other drugs. The associations between gay age and marijuana use and other drug use varied by HIV status. After adjustment for biological age, race, and education, a one-year increase in gay age was associated with significantly increased drug use among HIV-negative men (adjusted prevalence ratio (aPR): 1.08; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.03–1.14), but we observed no association between gay age and drug use among HIV-positive men (aPR: 0.96, 95% CI: 0.86–1.07). Gay age was not associated with marijuana use in HIV-negative (aPR: 1.00, 95% CI: 0.95–1.04) or HIV-positive (aPR: 1.06, 95% CI: 0.98–1.14) men. Conclusions: In summary, HIV-negative MSM who had experienced more time since first same-sex experience had significantly increased prevalence of recent drug use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)852-858
Number of pages7
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 16 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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