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What Is Chemsex?

Posted in: Sexual Health 25 Nov, 2015

Chemsex. I wonder if that'll make it into the dictionary next year? If 'emojii' can make it then this has a good shot.

So what is chemsex? It's when people take mind-altering substances like GHB (G), crystal meth or meow-meow to 'enhance' sex. Some chemicals such as GHB reduce inhibitions, whilst crystal meth and meow-meow are said to turn folk on.

Who Has Chemsex?

It's reportedly a subset of the male gay scene. A sexual health clinic in London reports that approximately 3000 men visit them each month who mix drugs with sex. The practice is easier than ever before. Apps like Grindr are used to organise chemsex parties and illegal drugs are cheaper and widely available.

Why Do People Have Chemsex?

A senior nurse at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trusts says that men who regularly have chemsex do so to 'manage negative feelings'. She continues to say that these negative feelings surround internalised homophobia, lack of confidence and HIV stigma.

A new documentary for the BBC looking into chemsex interviewed participants and found that some reported themselves insecure, and longing for intimacy. Others did it for the experience, the thrill and for sexual gratification.

What Are The Risks?

Drugs that alter brain perception are dangerous and when mixed with unprotected sex it increases risks. The gay community doesn't need to worry about pregnancy, but the risk of HIV is real. Some researchers believe chemsex has contributed to the rise of young gay men contracting HIV in London, however because the chemsex practice is somewhat covert, the little evidence available is not conclusive.

There's also the risk of drug addiction, overdose and hepatitis, not to mention the risks of sexual abuse and personal security if a participant is unconscious or incapable. In 2012 three men died in London's Pleasuredrome sauna after taking G. It has the capability to kill.

The after-effects of drug use can last several days, and a long session involving numerous sexual partners may cause damage to the anal area. This can have a detrimental effect on working lives and personal relationships. Some participants report feeling unwell for days after taking part in chemsex, only to repeat the process the following weekend.

How To Stay Safe

Researchers suggest that chemsex participants use it as a way of avoiding everyday life, and may benefit from talking therapies or advice services. Sexual health services support chemsex aftermath and report that there is an encouraging take-up of their service.

Avoiding chemsex is harder than before. Avoiding hook-up apps is a good start because they make it easy to find chemsex parties or 'chill-outs' as they are sometimes called.

HIV And Chemsex

Taking part in unprotected chemsex with multiple partners is risky. Getting tested for HIV is simple, and if you have contracted the illness, modern treatments are better than ever before. Being diagnosed with HIV is not the death sentence it once was, but this doesn't mean you should play roulette with your health. It's a still a serious life-long illness.

If you have been taking part in chemsex and are unhappy, worried or depressed then you can get advice from your sexual health clinic or your GP. If you don't enjoy the experience, it's worth thinking about why you take part. Worries about rejection, erectile dysfunction or previous bad experiences can be worked through with some professional help.

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