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Methamphetamine (meth) use is a recurring public health challenge in the U.S. In 2016, approximately 1.6 million Americans reported using meth. Meth use is associated with a number of adverse outcomes, including those associated with users' sexual health. In particular, meth use is linked to an increased risk for sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies. While studies have examined associations between substance use of various types-including meth use, and shame and guilt-few studies have examined relationships among substance use, sexual risk behaviors, and shame and guilt. No qualitative studies, to our knowledge, have studied all three of these phenomena in a sample of meth users. The present qualitative study explored the sexual risk behaviors and associated feelings of shame and guilt in relation to meth use. It draws from anonymous letters and stories (Nā€‰=ā€‰202) posted to an online discussion forum by meth users and their family members. A grounded theory analysis of these narratives identified four primary themes pertaining to meth use and sexual behaviors: (1) feeling heightened sexual arousal and stimulation on meth, (2) experiencing sexual dissatisfaction on meth, (3) responding to sexual arousal and dissatisfaction, and (4) feeling ashamed and/or guilty. Ultimately, the present findings indicate that feelings of shame and guilt may arise more from the consequences of sexual risk behaviors stemming from meth use rather than meth use itself. The emotional toll of meth-induced sexual risk behaviors, particularly shame and guilt over the loss of meaningful relationships and self-respect due to multiple sexual partners, may provide an important opportunity for interventionists.


Nikhil Ahuja, Michael Schmidt, Patrick J Dillon, Adam C Alexander, Satish Kedia. Online Narratives of Methamphetamine Use and Risky Sexual Behavior: Can Shame-Free Guilt Aid in Recovery? Archives of sexual behavior. 2021 Jan;50(1):323-332

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PMID: 32671499

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