Gay health: drugs, alcohol and smoking

Knowing the dangers of smoking, drinking and taking drugs can help you make an informed decision about how you live and take control of your health.

There's a link between taking drugs and binge-drinking and taking more sexual risks, so it’s important to be informed.

Alcohol risks

It's estimated that up to 22,000 deaths a year are associated with drinking too much alcohol

Lesbian and bisexual women tend to drink more and have more binge-drinking sessions than heterosexual women, research suggests.

Gay and bisexual men don't appear to drink any more than heterosexual men. However, gay and bisexual men are as likely to be affected by the triggers that prompt drinking too much and binge drinking as any other group of people.

It's estimated that up to 22,000 deaths a year are associated with drinking too much alcohol. That's twice as many as 20 years ago.

Alcohol is linked to liver disease, an increased risk of heart attack, adult-onset diabetes, obesity and some cancers. Read more about the dangers of drinking too much alcohol and how and where to get help.


Drug use among gay men, lesbians and bisexuals is significantly higher than it is among heterosexuals.

Research also suggests that homophobia, which can lead to low self-esteem, has a significant impact on the likelihood of gay people taking drugs.

Drug use can lead to an increased likelihood of having unprotected sex. This can increase the risk of being infected with an STI, including HIV. Some drugs, such as ecstasy and cocaine, can lower your inhibitions, making unsafe sex more likely. Some drugs can also interact dangerously with other drugs. For example, taking poppers with Viagra can lead to a rapid lowering of blood pressure and possible stroke, heart attack or death.

Read more about individual drugs and their effects and how and where to get help.


Research suggests that gay men, lesbians and bisexual people are more likely to smoke than heterosexuals.

It’s likely that, as with alcohol consumption, the social pressure to smoke is more prevalent among the lesbian, gay and bisexual community.

Gay women are also less likely to get pregnant, which often prompts women to give up smoking.

Smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and other diseases, such as cervical cancer in women, and it speeds up the onset of AIDS among people with HIV.

Read more about how to stop smoking.


Page last reviewed: 09/06/2012

Next review due: 09/06/2014


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The 1 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

GCM1988 said on 01 April 2012

Its great to see the NHS perpetuating gay stereotypes: "...despite spending more time in bars and at parties."
& "but may not feel that health messages in this area are relevant to them."
& " Gay women are also less likely to get pregnant, which often prompts women to give up smoking, and are more likely to continue to go to pubs and clubs regularly for more years than heterosexual women."
As a gay man I find these statements to be inaccurate and inexplicably homophobic......will the world ever change?

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