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‘They’re Not Hiding Much At All’ — Drugs Are Everywhere On LGBTQ Dating Apps

Kay Marie of Perfective Photography and St. Louis Public Radio

While dating apps are supposed to make it easier to find love, many in St. Louis’ LGBTQ scene are finding drugs through the apps instead. Offers to sell drugs such as crystal meth, commonly referred to as “Tina” in the LGBTQ community, are common on dating apps such as Grindr and Scruff. 

Other app users put the letter “T” in capital letters in their usernames, or use ice cream or ice cube emojis to let others know they are carrying the drug. They may also use skiing motifs to indicate they’re into cocaine. And with so many drug-fueled experiences on offer, LGBTQ people struggling with sobriety may feel overwhelmed.

That’s according to former KSDK reporter Jeff Small.

Small went from covering the news to making it when he was arrested in January 2018. Police officers found crystal meth in his possession at a traffic stop. He’s now been sober for fourteen months.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Small discussed how drugs are being trafficked through digital means to the LGBTQ community. He detailed his experience on the apps and how he conquered his addiction.

Small was joined in conversation by Brandon Reid, a housing intake coordinator for the St. Louis nonprofit organization Criminal Justice Ministry and board member for Pride St. Louis, and Jason Eccker, a licensed clinical social worker for Synchronicity Counseling Solutions. 

During the show, Reid shared his experiences on dating apps after he got sober in 2013. 

“Things have gotten worse. I think it’s more evident,” he said of the apps today. “There’s not as much people trying to hide it as it was when I was using.” Seven years ago, he said, it felt like more of an "underground kind of thing.”

Small, who joined the show by phone, agreed with Reid. Some app users aren’t hiding their drug sales at all, he said. “Some actually, surprisingly, are very bold,” he said. “Even when I was using, I’m like, ‘My goodness, they’re not hiding much at all’.”

Small said that getting drugs from the apps was easier than making a purchase on the street.

“It was always very easy to find if I was looking for someone to use it with,” he said. 

To help clients avoid situations like that, Eccker suggests having a plan in place before they get into a situation where drugs may be offered.

“That’s where you need to have a support system in place to reach out if needed. I think that’s where the real tug comes [from],” Eccker said.

Listen to the full discussion, which included calls from two St. Louis residents discussing their own experience with drugs and dating apps:

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Joshua Phelps. The engineer is Aaron Doerr and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.

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