Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) represent an incredibly diverse community according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, they are disproportionately impacted by syphilis, HIV, and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Complicating these potential health issues: throwing drug use into the mix. According to studies, the proportion of MSM engaging in chemsex was high (47%); they were often intravenous users.
However you identify, chemsex is a growing trend in the LGBTQ community. Continue reading to learn more about the dangers of chemsex and how it affects this population.
What is Chemsex?
Chemsex generally involves MSM individuals using drugs to intensify sex. Chemsex artificially and temporarily replaces feelings such as internalized homophobia, shame, grief, depression, anxiety, and trauma with a false sense of euphoria and empowerment. Chemsex is commonly be referred to as ‘party-and-play’ (PNP).
Typically, people do these things during sex either to increase pleasure or decrease inhibitions (increasing their confidence or removing inhibitions). In addition to lasting several hours, chemsex sometimes involves more than one couple or a group of people.
Although chemsex may be more prevalent among gay men there is also a cross-section of people who use drugs and alcohol to enhance sex and face similar health risks. This growing and deadly trend is driven by mainstream gay hookup or dating apps. The biggest danger of chemsex: it is incredibly addictive.
What Drugs Are Used for Chemsex?
The drugs that individuals use when participating in chemsex are ecstacy, ketamine, methamphetamines, mephedrone, GHB, and GBL.
Methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth, tina, or crank, is one of the most common stimulants used in chemsex. Individuals will use crystal meth by swallowing, snorting, injecting, or smoking it.
Side effects from methamphetamine are:
- increased attention and decreased fatigue
- increased activity and wakefulness
- decreased appetite
- euphoria and rush
- increased respiration
- rapid/irregular heartbeat
Lots of long-term dangers come from using this drug as well, like heart problems, psychosis and brain damage.
Like Methamphetamine, Mephedrone is a stimulant. Mephedrone is commonly known as meph, drone, or meow meow.
Similar to methamphetamine, it’s ingested in the same way.
Side effects of mephedrone include:
- Easily agitated
- Heart palpitations
- Increased body temperature
- Teeth grinding
- Increased sweating
Mephedrone is known to be very addictive as well. Long-term health effects include insomnia and short-term memory loss.
GHB and GBL
Sedatives GHB and GBL exert their effects by relaxing the body. Other names for GBH and GBL include G, gina, geebs, and liquid ecstasy. The medical term for these substances is gamma-hydroxybutyrate and gamma-butyrolactone.
Individuals typically consume GHB and GBL in liquid forms that they mix in a drink and swallow. They make people feel euphoric, less inhibited, and sometimes sleepy too.
Risks and Dangers of Chemsex
While chemsex may seem fun at the moment, the practice comes with serious risks and dangers. Several drugs are used in chemsex and can have a significant impact on how you act and feel. The mixing of these two increases your risk of HIV and STIs in several ways, especially while your inhibitions are lowered. Medication adherence for those already diagnosed with HIV/ AIDS is commonly non-existent while high or are partaking in these activities.
As mentioned before, chemsex is extremely dangerous and addictive and can cause complications when one tries to re-engage in sexual activity once a person gets sober. Many times, newly sober individuals find it difficult to have sex while sober and have to relearn intimacy in a safe way
The mental obsession that parallels chemsex can be quite distracting. A person who becomes addicted to chemsex will ensure that it is their top priority. Obligations and personal goals will be forfeited to this obsession.
In most cases, people who become addicted will start engaging in this activity on weekends or holidays. This will eventually lead to more consistent use and eventually daily use. When this happens, people start to unravel and lose everything bit by bit.
One of the main side effects of continued use is the need to consume more to continue to feel the desired effects. As people use more, the risk of overdosing, blacking- out, or having heart complications increases.
This is extremely common with the use of GHB and GBL. If you become unconscious, you are at a much greater risk of sexual assault.
Chemsex drugs will change the way you feel. Most of them will make you feel confused, paranoid, or frightened, and in other cases, they are so convincing that they lead to losing contact with reality.
Oftentimes, people obsess over chasing the feeling of chemsex, which can cause a person to disconnect from the daily routine of life, family, and friends. People often have a ‘comedown’ after a session where they feel low and depressed, which may lead to more useful to achieve that same high. This could potentially lead to self-harm or suicide.
Commonly, this is where one may become reliant on the drug. Oftentimes, this is when daily use becomes an issue, leading a person to addiction.
Chemsex drugs can interact negatively with certain anti-HIV medicines. There have even been reported deaths caused by the misuse of ritonavir and crystal meth.
Resources and Prevention
Although people like to explore within their sex life, abusing chemsex is never the answer or completely safe. No one should ever pressure you or force you into taking anything that you don’t want.
You can reduce the risks of chemsex by following some tips from the LGBT Foundation. These tips include:
- Using condoms
- Setting ground rules on the do’s and don’ts
- Not sharing needles
- Taking PrEP to protect against HIV
- Getting tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Avoid mixing drugs and alcohol
No Matter What Is Here to Help
If any part of your substance abuse is causing problems in your life, No Matter What Recovery is here for you. We specialize in helping people learn coping skills that will address the obsession with chemsex.
We’ll help point you in the right direction, so you get the care and support you need. Whether it’s making minor changes to your lifestyle or starting a rehabilitation program at our facility, we’ll be right by your side.
Contact us today to learn more.