Preferred Name: Zac
Zac works part time in the health sector. He’s single and lives on his own. He described his ethnic background as ‘Caucasian’: he was born in South Africa, as were his parents.
Zac began taking ice, GHB, ecstasy and cocaine in his thirties when he started a relationship with someone who took these drugs occasionally. In his early forties Zac moved overseas and continued to take various drugs when going clubbing. He says he also began taking them at home in ‘sexual situations’. During a period when he felt that he was taking them a ‘bit too often’, he sought counselling from a psychologist. Since recently returning to Australia, he plans to take ice and GHB (or ‘G’) only every few months for special occasions or long weekends.
After starting a new relationship with a partner who took various drugs occasionally, Zac began taking ice, GHB (or ‘G’), ecstasy and cocaine ‘occasionally and in a pretty controlled way’ when going clubbing. Taking these drugs made him want to dance and helped him ‘to be on the same wavelength as everyone else’. He continued to take them during his thirties, alternating between periods of fairly frequent consumption and periods in which he didn’t take them at all.
In his early forties Zac moved overseas and continued to take various drugs in ‘social contexts’, and also began taking ice and G at home in ‘sexual situations’ with partners. He characterises his drug use at this time as ‘occasional dependence’ in that he felt ‘dependent on taking drugs’ for the ‘occasions’ of partying and having sex. A few years later Zac was diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and began spending more time with other HIV-positive men, which he describes as ‘a support mechanism’ for dealing with his diagnosis. He says that ‘partying a lot’ and ‘taking a lot’ of ice ‘became part of the [HIV-]positive lifestyle’, which he was intermittently involved with over the next several years.
While Zac says he enjoyed taking ice and G, he was experiencing ‘bad comedowns’ in the days afterwards, which affected his motivation and self-confidence. He says he ‘constantly evaluat[ed]’ his consumption to ensure it didn’t prevent him ‘doing the things [he] wanted to do’ in his life. In a period in which he felt like he was taking these drugs ‘a little bit too often’, Zac decided to see a psychologist about developing strategies to reduce his consumption. After completing a series of counselling sessions he moved ‘back to [his] normal situation’ of using ice and G ‘in a controlled’ rather than ‘haphazard’ way.
Since returning to Australia six months before the interview, Zac says he’s been ‘less interested’ in taking these drugs, feeling that the after effects impact on his ‘ability to function [in his] best possible space’ and ‘enjoy life as much as [he] should’. In future he plans to take ice and G only every few months for special occasions or long weekends, when there’s more ‘space’ in his schedule to ‘comfortably party’ and ‘have a fun, good experience’ without it affecting his work, friendships or interests. He also plans to stay ‘fit and healthy’, with regular sport, exercise, and meditation.
After being diagnosed with HIV, Zac (M, 53, works in health services, party drugs) found support from other HIV-positive men who took ice, and began taking it more often. (Played by an actor)
I’d used [crystal] before [I was diagnosed with HIV…but there’s a lot of use] among HIV-positive guys […] and I did become involved in that to some extent […] What happens is, once you become positive you suddenly find yourself part of that group […] and [using together] is a little bit of a support mechanism. You’re meeting other guys who’re positive, you’re having sex with them, and you’re sometimes creating friendships with them […] I’m not saying it’s necessarily a healthy way to [cope] but it becomes a little bit of a support mechanism.
Zac has a break from taking ice when he finds it’s affecting his ‘general well-being and motivation’. (Played by an actor)
It’s just a matter of managing [your use] so that it doesn’t affect the rest of your life. And that’s why I stopped doing it because obviously it can be a bad habit. And ice has a lot of long-term consequences and you have bad comedowns […I mean] there’s [also] a lot of really good feelings and advantages in terms of enjoyment, but the reason […] I stopped doing it is because of the cost in terms of general wellbeing and motivation.
To cut down, Zac avoids visiting social networking sites at busy times when people are looking to ‘hook…up, and party…and do…drugs’. (Played by an actor)
[Another strategy if you want to avoid using] is to stay offline. So there’s, like, a [social networking…] site that’s mainly for guys hooking up, and partying and doing drugs. So I went off that site […] I put on my [profile], ‘No chemsex’, and [then] I changed that because I started doing it, or I was interested in doing it […] I suppose I could change that back again now, but I haven’t needed to […because] for the most part, the guys who’re partying and taking drugs are generally doing that on a Saturday morning, or a Sunday morning, or late at night. So if you’re [in bed early] you avoid that.
Zac has many interests, which he says help him to manage his consumption. (Played by an actor)
You know [taking drugs] is a fun […] thing to do but I also love just having dinners with my friends […and] I like exercising, I like cycling. [There are] a million other things I want in my life, and I think that’s why it hasn’t become dangerous for me because I have lots of other interests […] I mean next weekend, I have arrangements with friends: literally lunch, dinner [things planned for] the whole weekend so there’s no space for it […I mean] the more stuff I have going on, and the more interests and fun things I’m doing, the less [time I have for drug use…] So these are all […] systems of control [for managing it].
Zac cut down after starting a new job to ensure he was in the ‘best head space’ for his new role. (Played by an actor)
[So I took a break from using because] I started a new job and I wanted to be in the best head space for how I feel about myself and I how feel about work. So I didn’t want to be you know, feeling a comedown or being at work and having self-doubt. And with crystal, that’s what it tends to do: it takes away your ability to function at your best possible [level…] Even if you’re not having a comedown, you just don’t [feel the best.] You don’t walk around with a big smile on your face and enjoy life as much as you should.
Zac says that recovery can involve taking a break rather than stopping consumption altogether. (Played by an actor)
Well, there’s short-term recovery so you party for a weekend and then you […] recover [… Like] your recovery is the period of [getting] through the comedown, and starting to feel better, and eating, and going back to the gym [… But, like] I suppose [you could say] I’ve been in periods of recovery, like, where […] I didn’t use [crystal] for the first five months when I [moved] here. Now that, I suppose, is recovery, but I did it on my own and I’ve had lots of periods like that. But […] I haven’t yet turned around and said, ‘I’ll never [use it] again’ […because] what comes with it is a type of sex that I really like to have sometimes, [and] that I can’t […] experience [when I’m not on it] And I’m not willing to give that up yet […] But I might just get to a stage in a couple years where I feel like [stopping]. You know, I might get in a relationship or I might just lose interest in it.
Zac suggests that law enforcement resources would be better spent on drug education to teach ‘people […] to use drugs […] in a sensible and smart way’.
I don’t think it’s a good idea to criminalise drugs. I don’t think it helps that police run around with sniffer dogs. [They’re] spending all those resources at big parties or at Mardi Gras, or whatever, to find someone carrying a few ecstasy tablets […] or people […] using a bit of cocaine […] I don’t think that helps anyone […] I think you need to decriminalise [drugs] for users, and you need to then take the resources that exist there and put them into education […] and try and teach people if they’re going to use drugs, to use them in a sensible and smart way.