Regardless of how often or how much crystal you use health issues can arise. Seeing a GP or Specialist Clinic with experience in providing health checks specifically for people who use crystal or other stimulants can help you stay on top of your physical and mental health.
When you visit your GP for a health check-up it’s important that you try to discuss all aspects of your lifestyle, including your drug use, regardless of whether you use crystal recreationally or more frequently. Some people in our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities feel uneasy about disclosing their sexual practices, let alone their drug use, to their GP for fear of being judged or fear other negative consequences in the future. Instead they may see a different GP for any concerns about their sexual health or drug use and have a regular GP for their general health. There is nothing wrong with doing this, however, if you decide you want to have a separate ‘sex and drugs’ doctor or professional it is important that you are honest as you feel is safe with them about these aspects of your lifestyle.
Concerned about disclosure?
It is important to know that while doctors have an ethical and legal responsibility to protect the information and privacy of their patients, your information may be disclosed. This happens only in a few situations; if they believe you are a danger to yourself or others or in some legal proceedings and child protection issues. For more information on privacy and confidentiality check the Information and Privacy Commission website. If you’re not comfortable with talking about your drug use with a GP, there are other health services for example the stimulant health check-up clinic at St Vincent’s, S-Check Clinic.
So what’s a Stimulant Health Check-up?
The length and severity of physical and mental health issues can be dramatically reduced if addressed at early onset. When you have a stimulant health check-up the doctor will talk to you about your medical history, stimulant use, lifestyle factors and general health which may include:
Drug use patterns. It’s important to be honest with your GP about what drugs you take, how you take them and how often.
Sexual health. Using crystal before or during sex can affect the decisions you make and the risks you take when fucking which can potentially increase your risk of blood borne virus (BBV) transmission and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Tell your doctor about the kind of sex that you’re having so that they can advise you and ensure that you get tested regularly for HIV, viral hepatitis and STIs.
You can get a test for HIV and viral hepatitis at any GP or as part of routine STI and BBV testing at a local sexual health clinic (ACON where to get tested, NSW Sexual Health Clinics). Contact the Sexual Health info Line on 1800 451 624 to find a testing centre near you. For gay men, Rapid HIV testing trials are currently happening in Sydney. For more information and to find a Rapid testing centre near you, check out endinghiv.org.au
Sleep patterns. Prolonged sleep disturbances can impact on your mental and physical wellbeing.
Cardiovascular health. Crystal releases very high levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain) known as catecholamines (noradrenaline, dopamine and serotonin) which can result in potentially dangerous rises in blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate. This is more pronounced when combined with alcohol or other substances, especially other psychostimulants like cocaine. It’s important to have your heart assessed especially if you have existing cardiovascular health issues.
Depression, anxiety and stress. Crystal can affect your mood and make you feel anxious and depressed, especially after a big weekend binge. Doctors can quickly assess your current mental health using a five minute questionnaire.
Kidneys and liver. Using crystal and other drugs can put added strain on your kidneys and liver. If you’re on medication for a health condition, ask your doctor about what kind of interaction crystal may have with your meds as crystal may impact on how your body metabolises the medication and vice versa.
If your concerns are to do with your mental health and you feel that your crystal use is beginning to impact on your personal, social or financial circumstances there are support services you can access such as ACON's Substance Support Service. Your doctor can also refer you to appropriate health services.