Drug Use @ The Baths: Part 2
Drug Use @ The Baths: Part 2

The thing that constantly blows my mind is how so many gay men take drugs on a day-to-day basis. It is almost apart of their lives as so many of these men are able to function, hold down a job and maintain relationships with other people. All the while taking some form of narcotic during the day. And it is not marijuana or poppers I am talking about. But hard-core drugs like GHB, Special K, speed, and even magic mushrooms. Drug use now seems to be the norm in the mainstream gay culture. It is accepted and even considered fashionable in some gay circles. Just as there are some men who can handle these drugs, there are an equal number of gay men who cannot. And inevitably these are the men that find their lives spinning out of control.

Let us focus on the darker side of the baths. It is easy go from a recreational user to an addict. As an addict your sole purpose of the day is to scrape enough money together to get high. If you are not a millionaire, this poses a lot of problems. Addicts lose themselves in a haze of alcohol, pot, crack, crystal meth and anything else that they can find. They literally become human garbage pails. I have even heard of one person who was so addicted to Crystal meth, - that he wiped out all his savings, his kids college fund, sold his condo, and basically stole money from other people, just to continue his habit. Now he is in hiding, because he owes money (lots of it) to his drug dealer. Using this person's story as an example, it should come as no surprise that many of these addicts become homeless. And where do they wind up? Why the baths of course.

How do addicts wind up living on and off at the baths? Most of the drug users at the baths had a good life before becoming an addict. They had jobs, a home, friends and family. Unfortunately they blew it all away when they started to dabble with drugs. It starts out by using drugs recreationally. Then it gets out of hand and an addiction to drugs is formed. These men become drug addicts, consumed with the obsession of getting high. They have sold everything of any value they have for drugs and are now homeless. So it should not come as a surprise that they are crashing at the baths, and that is only when they have the money to do so. Some of these addicts who stay at the baths are even straight. But beggars cannot be choosers when it comes to a roof over your head.

Then there are the men that are new to the city. Everyday scores of young twenty something gay men arrive in this city all with a similar story. Some men have come from small towns or other states that do not have much of a gay community. Newly graduated from University, they cannot wait to arrive in the big metropolis and begin their new life. Others are teenagers who have run away from an oppressive home life, wanting to be free and gay. Then you have the other teenagers who were kicked out of the house for being gay. Or they have had to runaway because of an abusive home life.

Whatever their story is, all of these men arrive in the city with some optimism. Finally they will be able to be amongst other gay men and feel part of a community. Breaking out of that shell and be free. Sounds romantic, huh? But you know the saying, be careful for what you wish for…you just might get it. It is always the same with these young men. They arrive with about a thousand dollars in their pocket and big dreams in their head. They have this romantic feeling that everything will be wonderful. But after six months you notice the dramatic difference in these men – and its not good. When they first arrive they are fresh faced, firm body, and a bit naive with a wide-eyed innocence. But six months later they look strung out, their face has sagged, their body is rail-thin and their eyes look fully dilated – like they have been to the eye doctor.

New to the "gay ghetto", it is easy to fall into the wrong crowd if you do not know anyone. That thousand bucks will not last very long, as rent is at least half that, and first and last months rent is needed to get any place. These newbie's find out where the cheapest place to spend the night is – the bathhouse. They have trepidation and fear, since it is unknown. But there is not much of a choice, since it is either that or sleeping in the park. By being at the baths, these newbie's inevitably run into the hustlers and drug users that crash at the baths. Our newcomers desperately want to fit in and make friends. Remember, they do not know anyone yet. And unfortunately, they fall prey to the drug scene and wind up being an addict. Sometimes it occurs by happenstance. A newbie will meet a drug user, get talking, and the drug user does not want to get high alone. So both of you share a hit. Or more likely, a drug dealer will target a newbie and deliberately get him high. Once that feeling of being high is established, and that is all you crave, there is no turning back. You become an addict.

This brings us to the drug dealers that roam the hallways at the baths. Some bathhouses have a drug dealer present or available by phone (although the bathhouse I go to regularly is drug-free). Just like I wrote about in Tricks of the Trade, there is nothing a bathhouse can do to stop this type of drug trafficking. Bathhouses are all about the privacy between two consenting adults. There is no way for a bathhouse to monitor what goes on in a private room. As an added precaution, a drug dealer finds it is smart to provide a free sample to a staff person, in exchange for his silence. Then the dealer gets to work, walking up and down the halls, seeking out men who want to get high or stay high. These dealers try to be discreet, as they do their dealings behind closed doors. But to maintain any type of business, drug dealers constantly target the fresh, young newbie's I wrote about. The dealer will strike up a conversation with this new person. As a welcome present, the dealer will slip the newbie a small bump, just enough to get him hooked. The sooner the dealer can get a new addict hooked, the more money he makes. And inevitably the dealer has a new customer to add to his long list of clients.

So many of these drug users become homeless. But somehow they manage to scrape up enough money for a 12-hour room at the baths, so they at least have a place to sleep at night. Plus the 12-hour room gives them in and out privileges, so they can go out, score some drugs, then return to the baths to get high in the privacy of their room. But more likely they cannot wait to walk back to the baths, so they find some alley or stairwell to hide in so they can snort/smoke their drugs, before heading back. Inevitable the baths start becoming a home to many of these homeless drug addicts. All of them carry a knap-sack, which contains their drug paraphernalia, a change of clothes, and some toiletry items (which they shoplift on a regular basis, preferring to spend their money on drugs). The baths have all of the comforts of a home. There are showers and free liquid soap to stay clean, television to watch, a bed to sleep in and a snack bar to buy food. They even get their clothes washed and dried at the baths. The floor attendant just adds it to the piles of towels and throws everything into the washing machine. But be warned that not all floor attendants will be that nice. Some demand money or a bump of drugs, so a bribe is not uncommon. Some baths even have a complimentary buffet once a week, and many homeless drug addicts make sure they are present for that.

What I have described may sound quaint but trust me it is not. As a drug addict you find yourself in involved in a community of other addicts who lie, cheat, steal, and scheme for that feeling of getting high. At times it is fascinating to see all of these hustlers, drug addicts and drug dealers all under the same roof. Seeing them interact with each other is almost like watching a soap opera at times. These folks may appear, on the surface, to be friendly to one another, but they are far from being true friends. In reality they could not care less about each other. There is no jealously, no feeling of competitiveness, no feelings of being threatened. They just want to get high, and that is the only thing on their minds.

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2 thoughts on “Drug Use @ The Baths: Part 2”

  1. Though I do not question your experiences of race in the bathhouse environment, my comments are in regard to drugs and leather. Your generalizations about leather and the older clients all wearing cock rings are ignorant and a little dated. I was introduced to them by a lovely Hispanic boy in Club Palm Springs twelve years ago – and my sexual identity has continued to grow in the leather scene. I am fit, but certainly not a muscle Mary! As for the drugs – have you tried them ? I have tried virtually everything except heroin, my only regular drug is GHB, and your comments on XTC are not proven. Please use this site – which is very informative and entertaining in many areas – as an educational tool with factual information and not just hearsay. Just to let you know, Amsterdam is now starting to see Tina – its just starting to take off here and I am dreading it. I tried it in LA once and lost three days – luckily in a safe environment. I can see so many people getting hooked which is a shame, because it really has ruined the scene in places like LA – totally different crowd now than twelve years ago. Success with further exploits in the baths ! Simon

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