Aims The aim of this study was to compare patterns of drug use and dependence between homosexually experienced and exclusively heterosexually experienced individuals.
Design We used a cross-sectional national household interview survey conducted in the United States.
Setting Secondary data analysis of the 1996 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse was employed.
Participants Participants were sexually active individuals, aged 18 years and older, who reported the genders of their sexual partners in the past 12 months; included 174 homosexually experienced (98 men, 96 women) and 9714 exclusively heterosexually experienced (3922 men, 5792 women) respondents.
Measurements Life-time, past 30 days and daily use of nine classes of drugs. Symptoms of dysfunctional use and dependence.
Findings There were consistent patterns of elevated drug use in homosexually experienced individuals for life-time drug use, but these were greatly attenuated for recent use. Homosexually experienced men were more likely to report use of marijuana, cocaine and heroin, and homosexually experienced women more likely to report use of marijuana and analgesics than individuals reporting only opposite-sex partners. Both homosexually active men and women were more likely than exclusively heterosexually active respondents to report at least one symptom indicating dysfunctional drug use across all drug classes, and to meet criteria for marijuana dependence syndrome. The only difference between homosexually experienced men and women was that men were more likely to report any daily drug use.
Conclusions These data are consistent with surveys suggesting that there is a moderate elevation of drug, particularly marijuana, use and dependence in gay and bisexual men and women when compared to heterosexual men and women.