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People use substances for a variety of reasons and not everyone who uses or drinks experiences significant problems or dependence. Two common substances that appear to affect people living with HIV and GLBT people are alcohol and methamphetamine.  Substances can either be classified as depressants, stimulants or hallucinogens. Depressants slow the brain and the body down (valium, xanax, alcohol, heroin, cannabis, GHB). Stimulants speed the brain and the body up (methamphetamine, ecstasy, cocaine, cigarettes). Hallucinogens change the way you see, hear or think about things (acid, ketamine).

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GLBT people and people living with HIV are at risk of abusing or becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol, as they are used commonly at gay and lesbian parties and bars, and seen as normal and sometimes necessary in these places. Also, people living with HIV and GLBT people may use drugs or alcohol to cope with discrimination, stigma and low self-esteem, and to enhance sexual experiences. Using drugs or alcohol before and during sex may disrupt normal thought processes and can lead to unsafe sex and sexually transmitted infections.  

Drinking or using in excess may cause mental illness, heart problems, infections, mouth, throat and lung cancer and also relationship, employment and financial problems. Depending on how often, how much and whether you snort, smoke, swallow or inject these substances will determine if you eventually become dependent on drugs and alcohol so much that you need to have it every day.

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