Toni Hogg, manager of London Friend's drug & alcohol service Antidote, is recognised in the inaugural Attitude Magazine Pride Awards
Our Antidote drug and alcohol service manager Toni Hogg has won an Attitude Magazine Pride Award! The Awards are new this year – which sees the 21st Anniversary of Attitude – and honour what the magazine calls 12 “extraordinary ordinary” people who they feel embody the spirit of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride. The Awards will be presented on the eve of the London LGBT Pride march at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane.
Toni has been recognised alongside other LGBT activists and campaigners for her 15 years with Antidote, which has seen her rise from being a weekly volunteer to service manager, as the work she oversees has become increasingly needed in a changing scene of newer drugs and online hook-up apps making chemsex parties easy to arrange. Toni has led Antidote’s response to meeting these new challenges which has forced the service to expand its own awareness of the risks of newer substances, and develop new ways of supporting service users.
Speaking to Attitude Toni described the changes, seen most prominently among gay and bisexual men. “People were coming in saying they were using crystal meth and G. There wasn’t a lot of knowledge in generic service about those drugs”. Originally located within a mainstream drug treatment agency before moving to LGBT charity London Friend in 2011, Antidote realised it was attracting a very different clientele to those using drugs like heroin or crack cocaine which the parent service was more used to seeing. Antidote’s clients were more likely to be professionals who had no previous history of drug or alcohol problems.
“They have very good careers but have either tried chemsex as a one off and got hooked or found that it was a way of facilitating meeting men easily for sex” Toni explains; “The drugs involved are quite compulsive and psychologically addictive. If you combine the drugs with sex it’s quite an explosive situation”.
Antidote was the first service to identify chemsex trends in the UK, having seen drugs like crystal meth and mephedrone explode onto the scene and prompt more and more people to seek support when things began to get out of hand. Sexual health services have also begun to report increasing occurrences of chemsex, and have begun to employ their own drugs workers after Antidote piloted a pioneering new approach to bring chemsex support into gay men’s clinics with partners 56 Dean Street.
Toni’s award champions the work she has done to help hundreds of LGBT people address their drug and alcohol use, something she admits personal experience of, which led her into the job she does today. Running away from home at 15 she recalls “I got heavily into drugs and was very suicidal. When I trained as a counsellor I knew I wanted to work within the LGBT community from the start.”
One of Antidote’s strengths is understanding why LGBT people seek out specialist support. “It can be really difficult for people to talk at generic services” says Toni. “They worry about homophobia. It’s more comfortable for people to know they are going to be seen by other LGBT people who aren’t going to be judgemental about what they’ve been doing in their private lives.”
Toni credits Antidote’s success to its dedicated team of volunteers, without whom she says the service would collapse. Most of all, though, she is driven by Antidote’s service users. “I love coming to work every single day. I love my clients. I feel truly blessed to be in this position and I really enjoy working with our client group. They are a great bunch of guys.”
Antidote is the UK’s only LGBT-specific drug & alcohol service, based at London Friend, the UK’s oldest LGBT health & wellbeing charity.
Photo credits: Ellis Parrinder for Attitude Magazine