Drugs & Alcohol

Many LGBTQ youth use, misuse and abuse substances for a variety reasons including to feel good, cope with stress, self medicate or just to party.  But let’s face it – sometimes it’s hard to know when substance use crosses a line and becomes a problem. Physical consequences of substance abuse include liver damage (which is permanent and often fatal), increased risk for certain cancers, brain damage, overdose and death.  Substance use can lower your inhibitions and affect your decision-making.  People are more likely to make unhealthy decisions, like having sex without a condom or driving under the influence, when they are drunk or high.  Also, people who are living with addiction make some decisions based on their physical need and often prioritize their addiction over their health and safety.  As an example, they may choose to share a needle with someone they know to be HIV+ in order to meet their physical need.  For these reasons and more, it is important to know about drug and alcohol use and to recognize and understand substance abuse and addiction.

Substance Abuse Addiction

A pattern of use that includes one or more of the following scenarios:

  • Experiencing multiple alcohol or drug-related legal problems such as getting arrested for driving under the influence, damaging someone’s property while drunk or high, or physically hurting someone else while under the influence
  • Using substances in dangerous situations such as while driving a vehicle or operating other machinery
  • Continuing to use substances despite problems with family members, friends, or significant others that are caused by use
  • Ignoring important responsibilities such as going to work or school  

When someone has a physical dependence on,  extreme desire for drugs/alcohol, and/or having to use more and more to get the same buzz or high. The following are a few signs and symptoms that are associated with addiction:

  • Constantly finding ways to include drugs/alcohol in other activities
  • Drinking/using alone before going out with friends, clubbing, or bar hopping
  • Failed attempts to stop drinking/using
  • Frequent hangovers and blackouts
  • Avoidance of family members and friends because of drinking/using
  • Skipping meals
  • Making excuses to drink/use
  • Alcohol and drug binges
  • Increased irritability or anger

If you are worried that you, a friend or family member is abusing substances or is struggling with addiction, speak up!  Sometimes people don’t realize the effect substance use has on themselves and the people around them. There is support available to help people deal with their issues with substances. 

The Massachusetts Substance Abuse Information and Education Helpline -  800.327.5050 (24 hours a day | 7 days a week)

Injection Drug Use & HIV/HCV: What’s the connection?

S haring needles with someone who has HIV or HCV (Hepatitis C) to inject anything directly into your body (including hormones) puts you at risk for contracting HIV or HCV from them.  There are some ways that you can lower your risk of getting HIV or HCV if you are injecting anything into your body.

  • Do not share your needles.
  • Be the first one to use the needle if people are sharing.
  • Use a bleach kit, to clean a needle that has already been used.  Bleach kits are available at BAGLY every week and at all of our events, just ask a HEARRT Peer Leader


There are 4 needle exchange locations in Massachusetts where you can turn in used needles and get new ones.  Needle Exchange sites are free, anonymous and safe to use.  There is no risk of arrest for using a needle exchange site.  They are located in Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and Provincetown.  Check out our friends at the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts for more information about each of these locations.


If you are 18 or older you can go into any pharmacy in Massachusetts and buy clean needles without a prescription.


You can drop off your old needles at BAGLY, just ask a HEARRT Peer Leader or staff member about our sharps box kiosk.